Monday, December 13, 2010

Bad Catholics

Why should I become Catholic when there are so many bad Catholics and so many good reformed Christians? I asked that question. I think every potential convert does at some point. CtC raises the issue here. There are many answers to that. I thought I would go over some of them:
  1. Should we judge a church based on works or on grace? Protestants emphasize grace and rightly so. So why should we expect the church of Christ to be remarkable based on the virtue of it's member rather than based on the special graces it receives from Christ? 
  2. Who are we to judge? Are we not assuming to much when we can discern who is walking with Christ well and who is doing it badly? Why does it matter who knows more bible verses or who consumes less alcohol? We think that is important but that is based on our understanding of God's truth. Isn't the accuracy of that precisely the issue? So it is a different form of judging a church based on how well it conforms to your opinions. Not judging the doctrine but judging the spirituality. 
  3. Are we really looking at the best Catholics? Bad Catholics tend to continue to call themselves Catholic and return to the church for weddings, funerals, baptisms, Christmas, etc. Bad protestants don't. They just stop coming altogether. Because protestants vote on many issues and Catholics  don't they tend to get non-attenders off the membership list much more efficiently. But if you exclude those and just look at faithful attenders in both churches the gap pretty much disappears. 
  4. Many Catholics are living like protestants. Having sacred tradition and apostolic and petrine succession only helps you if you set aside your personal opinions and agendas and obey God's word. In fact, it is worse to sin knowingly than to sin out of ignorance. So a Catholic who uses artificial contraception is worse off than a protestant who uses it because the Catholic has less excuse for not understanding it is wrong. But the point is not to dodge culpability for out disobedience. We want to know and obey God's word. Many suggest we are better off not knowing so we can have more sex. But obedience always carries more blessings than disobedience. God's way is better than the world's way. 
  5. Sacraments can be harmful. Paul talks about people eating and drinking judgment to themselves if the take the Eucharist in an unworthy manner. People point out how many Catholics are going to communion and not becoming holy. But how often do they go to confession? When they go do them make a good confession or do they hold obstinately to a mortal sin? Jesus gave us the sacraments but we have to allow them to change us. Just going through the motions is not enough.
  6. The church is flawed because guys like you are not in it. I can see how protestant converts have already made the Catholic church much more faithful to it's own teachings. How many of these problems in the church are a direct result of the people best equipped to solve them have been leaving the church and joining a protestant fellowship with like-minded people? It is precisely the reason we are called to unity. It is a command of God. One we have been disobeying big time. So it is a bit like the man who says he will keep committing adultery because his marriage is so bad. But his marriage is only bad because he commits adultery. 
  7. What do you want from a church? As a protestant it was important for me to have good preaching and good music on Sunday mornings. As a Catholic it does not matter that much. Our parish does OK but if it didn't I have lots of places I can go to find good preaching and good Christian music. I don't need the change churches for that.
I remember long before I considered becoming Catholic a nun said to me,"If you become a Catholic become a good one. We have enough bad ones!" That has stuck with me. Nobody converts and tries to be the stereo-typical Catholic. We convert to embrace the gifts God has for us through His church. If other Catholics don't embrace them that is sad but really irrelevant. It was never about them. It was about God. 

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