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Archive for February, 2011


Why Catholicism – Part 2

For the past 5 months, Michelle and I have been attending RCIA. For those unfamiliar with Catholicism. RCIA is the program you go through to become a fully functioning Catholic. Next Easter during the celebration of the Resurrection, we will finally be able to partake in the Eucharist.

I won’t sugar coat our journey, its been difficult. We have both struggled going from a Protestant mindset, to a Catholic one. We have felt like dropping out at times, and each time that happens, we find grace in the people who make up the Catholic Church. And so we stay, seemingly until the next issue arises. This is certainly not the process we envisioned, but like I said its been a difficult journey so far.

Simplistically, Catholicism has three core systems that govern it:

The Dogma:

This is the core belief of the Catholic Church, it covers the trinity, the resurrection, and all the basic components you find in a standard christian belief system. Catholics add a couple more, like the perpetual virginity of Mary, and the Assumption of Mary.

The Doctrine

This is the rule book for Catholics, known as the Catechism. Its part of what Theologians call the deposit of faith, maintained for over two thousand years. It lays out how a Catholic should behave, what limits they have, and what things are considered mandatory.

The Cyclicals:

These are opinions handed out normally from the Papal seat (the current Pope), and can cover a wide range of topics. Pope Pious the second for instance put one out stating that going over 30 miles an hour was a mortal sin, there have been others just as silly. But they can also be incredibly deep, such as the Humane Vitae put out by Pope Paul the second.

More than anything else the Doctrine of the Church has caused us to stumble, for instance the Church has defined what it terms as ‘Days Of Obligation’. These are days when you are required as a Catholic to attend Mass, and a refusal to do so is considered a grave sin. However, these rules exists only in the Catechism. Scripture makes no such claim, the days are decided by a group of bishops. For the United States its a different set of days than anywhere else in the world, in our RCIA class one of our table leaders actually took the days of obligation chart and marked off all the non-essential ones. To further confuse the matter, you can be excused from committing a grave sin, if you have to work on a day of obligation, or are sick.

For Michelle and I the issue is that if your going to tell me that not attending is a grave sin, then you need to back it up with scripture or make a compelling case. From our viewpoint the Church can do neither, when you add that the days are open to interpretation by men, and the Church added clauses to allow people out of the grave sin portion. The position for us become untenable, it reeks of the very thing that Christ admonished the pharisees for. Adding onto the law Moses, and setting up a system of extra rules.

On the flip side of this issue, I’ve only encountered one Catholic who defended the position of the Church. Using Hebrews 10:25 (you could also use Acts 2:42) the position still does not equate to a mortal sin. Yes you can argue that believers should attend, but to then make the jump to what type of sin this amounts to, ignores the function of grace. I’ve heard the same argument from Baptist churches where piety, not belief is the key focus. The majority of Catholics I’ve talked to don’t worry about rules like this. Instead they take Doctrine positions like this apply them only as they see fit.

This is the dichotomy of our journey to the Catholic faith, the words used in the Catechism are very different from what we get from the laity of the Church. Even the Dogma, which is the basis or core of the Church’s belief, has different levels of authority attached to each piece.

The other issue that has torn us, is that it’s so easy to find bad information. Over the years you hear so many false things about what Catholics actually believe. It becomes hard to find the actual truth, the Marian doctrine is a great example. You can even find former Catholics more than willing to opine about how the Church worships Mary, but the actual dogma is much more subtle than protestants can fathom. It’s much easier to simply believe the worst, and to be fair, there are valid concerns with how some have deified Mary.

The more we have time to dig, and look at the foundations of the faith. The more we find depth, history and a reasonable well thought out belief system. We are finally nearing the end, I’m not sure how many more issues we have to work out. But at this point we are committed to finishing the journey, when you begin to understand the deep historical and biblical nature of how the Church operates. The more we realize far we have come, and how far we still have to go. Coming up soon is reconciliation, another topic for another time.

I’ve been actually sitting on this article for some time, In December I finished two classes, along with RCIA and other things going on it was a crazy time for us. I’ve reduced down to one class this semester, so I should have a little more time to keep the site updated. Next up I’ll talk about the Catholic take on salvation, and the Marian doctrines. Honestly some of the more difficult ones we had to work through, another story for another time.