Friday, April 20, 2012

Are we really "fringe" Catholics?

Important Disclaimer! This post is not about who is a "better" person than another. As I have said countless times on this blog, only God can read and judge hearts and souls. This post seeks to address only what objectively constitutes the "fringe" of Catholicism vs. what constitutes the normative or mainstream. 


A non-Catholic reader, Johanne, left an interesting comment during a recent discussion on this post.
[A]s a non-Catholic, I only know if someone SAYS they're a Catholic--I can't evaluate whether or not they are living out their faith. For all I know YOU are not a "real" Catholic. I don't mean in any way to imply that you're not, and it's not anyone's obligation to offer their credentials to me, or anyone else. I'm just sharing my bemusement when I hear religious folks claim that other members of their faith are not "real" members of their faith. At times I have described conversations I've been a part of on "The Bubble" to other Catholics and have been told you sound like members of a "fringe." I'm not saying they're accurate, I'm just saying it's confusing. I guess that's why there are so many religions and so many sects within those religions. People feel a need to find their niche. 

The sentiments are nothing new; faithful Catholics hear this sort of thing a lot. Let's look at it: "Fringe" implies that we are on the margins of the Faith, and outside of the mainstream of Catholicism. Interestingly, many Catholics who identify me or the Catholics from this blog as "fringe" have the same thoughts about Pope Benedict XVI. They see him as being extremist, or out-of-touch, or stuck in the past. They have their own ideas about what Catholicism is or should be or must one day become.

And therein lies the problem. Most American Catholics are not operating within the Catholic paradigm!

The Catholic paradigm is hierarchical. We have a Magisterium*. In the Catholic religion, we have an earthly standard-bearer, a touchstone for orthodoxy, and a final authority: The pope. The pope is normative for our Catholic Faith, and he can never be on the fringe, but only in the center. The pope guards and protects the unbroken teachings from Christ, and hands them down, intact. Unlike Protestant denominations, doctrinal truth is not up for a vote, and the faithful cannot pick and choose what is or is not a part of the Faith.
       
But many American Catholics, unaware of this paradigm (or simply disliking it), live as practical Protestants. They refuse to submit to the authority of the pope, reject some or most of the Deposit of Faith, and then label as "extreme" those Catholics who accept the entire Faith. But that's the wrong perspective, of course. In fact, the further away one gets from embracing all the teachings of the Church, the closer he gets to the "fringe".

Here's a good illustration. At the great Easter Vigil -- the universal Church's most important liturgy of the year -- those being received into the fullness of the Catholic Church recite these words at the sacred altar of God:


“I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church teaches, believes and proclaims to be revealed by God.” 


This remarkable statement is normative, mainstream Catholicism. It is the very basis of what makes us Catholic. A Catholic who speaks these words and means them is not on the "fringe" of Catholicism, but resides in her very center.

The question may arise, then, just what are the teachings of the Church? Thankfully, that's easy to know. Again, look to the pope. Look to the unchanging teachings of the Church, which have been handed on for 20 centuries. Look to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Blessed John Paul the Great called a "sure norm for teaching the faith" and "a sure and authentic reference text." No one has to wonder what the Church teaches, as it's all there for everyone, including non-Christians, to see.

Church teaching is no mystery, and I'm guessing that even dissenting Catholics know the basics. Johanne, ask your Catholic friends what the Church teaches, officially, about homosexual "marriage". Ask them what the Church teaches about abortion, or about contraception. Ask them what the Church teaches about Christ's resurrection, or Mary's perpetual virginity. Chances are good that they already know what the Catholic Church teaches, even if they disagree.

And Johanne, please invite your Catholic friends to read this post. I'd be most interested to hear their reasons for classifying me and others here as "fringe". I truly am curious as to their evidence or thoughts on that. They will be treated respectfully, as you know!

Ultimately, I'd like them to know that faithful Catholics, like those you might find here in the Bubble, are not "fringe" or on the freakish edge of Catholicism; we're simply folks who strive, first and foremost, to be faithful and obedient (oh, that word!) to the Magisterium, living in the the heart of Christ's Church, where there is plenty of room for everyone.






*Magisterium: The teaching authority of the Catholic Church, comprised of the body of bishops in union with the pope.




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140 comments:

  1. I am not on the fringe. I am in the minority. Obedience has never been popular in American society and no less so than in today's culture. We all want to believe that we are our own best resource, greatest wisdom and final authority. Catholicism requires us to let go of those illusions and hold on to the mystical body of Christ, his Church.


    Eli

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  2. Leila

    I would suspect adhering to the Magisterium as you do, you are more likely on "the fringe" and in the minority as to what American and Western Europe Catholicism has evolved and become.

    Cafeteria Catholics are the norm and though practicing under the Catholic Church umbrella are indeed for all practical purposes are protestants.

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    1. reread the post. She makes it perfectly clear why she is residing in the "center" of Catholicism by following the true teachings of the Church

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    2. Julie, sadly, the center is no longer the center.

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    3. I've gotta disagree. The Center is Jesus Christ, and the Rock is Peter and His successors. There is not movement there from the center to the fringe. The center stays put, and is not built on shifting sand. That glorious truth is an indisputable fact of our Faith. And for this, we rejoice!

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    4. of course. I'm speaking in perception, not the reality of a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and of the true Catholic Church which includes the magisterium that not even the gates of hell will prevail against. That is not to say the Western Church which is in obvious decline will remain nor continue to be the dominant center of the future Catholic Church.

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  3. What Eli said.

    I am perfectly comfortable with Church authority and teachings because I chose it. The Churc holds the truth and if I didn't believe that, I'd be a Protestant. Plain and simple. I don't get why there are so man dissenting Catholics who still claim to be Catholic. Obviously there is something there that they are holding onto. Otherwise they'd leave. Maybe they are arrogant and feel they can change the church. Maybe they are lazy and are in a comfort zone and don't want to leave. Or maybe they know deep down, through the graces of their baptism and other sacraments, that the Mothr Church is right, but for some reason something is keeping them from following it faithfully.

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    1. Sorry for typos. Fat thumbs and a crazy phone.

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    2. Kara, it's interesting. In the sociology/anthropology worlds, they call Catholics who do not adhere to Church teaching but yet still call themselves Catholic or participate in SOME of the rituals or liturgies, "cultural Catholics." There's a theory that it's a cultural identification AS WELL AS a religious identification.

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    3. Yes, I've heard of cultural Catholics before. I think a lot of my parish falls under that category. I've met SO many of them.

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  4. I like to think that we are living the heart of Catholicism. Fringe implies far from center, or on the outskirts. Since we proscribe to the heart of Catholic Christianity that would put us at the center and those who oppose such teachings on the fringe.

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    1. Whoops, just realized I basically said exactly what you already did. Sorry! That'll teach me to just read the title and not the whole post. :)

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  5. Yes, the mainstream or heart of the Church is defined by the Magisterium, not by the volume or number of dissenters.

    It's like this: Let's say there's an organization of vegans. And slowly but surely, some members of the organization distanced themselves from the leadership and mission, and began eating meat and advocating for meat-eating regularly. Let's say that at some point, there were even more meat-eating members than those who stayed true to the mission. Would that mean that the vegans committed to living the vegan life were in fact the "fringe" members of that vegan organization? Of course not. They remain the center and heart of it, and the others are "fringe and extreme" (and dare I say, "unfaithful" and "dissenting"?). Again, not saying that the meat-eaters are all nasty and bad people who are doing what they do out of malice. Perhaps they are confused. And yes, perhaps they lack a certain level of integrity. But the meat-eaters are not mainstream vegans, even if they have great numbers behind them.

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    1. Aside from the unchangeable matters of faith and morals, it will be interesting to see if and how the future Church responds/adapts to the declining Western Church.

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    2. GMRunner, what some might see as decline might well be necessary pruning. Christ never promised us a large Church; He only promised us that the gates of Hell would not prevail against her.

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  6. I was at our Saturday morning "retreat" several years ago with a friend coming into the Church when one of her fellow classmates, in answer to the DRE's question, "What surprises you most about the Catholic Church?" answered with a sniff and eye-dab, "That I can be pro-choice and Catholic." The "teacher" smiled and nodded and all but patted her hand. A few hours later, she stood at the altar and repeated the words you quoted, Leila. Un-freaking-believable. (Can't write any more because I might swear...)

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  7. Allison, I am amazed at your restraint. I would not have been able to keep quiet!

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  8. You basically have four camps of people:

    Those that don't properly understand the Church, and only follow bits and pieces of what they know and accept, never thinking themselves above reproach should they be corrected. Humility and wisdom are at work.

    Those that don't properly understand the Church, but think they do, and follow bits and pieces as they see fit, thinking themselves above reproach or correction. Pride, ego, and ignorance.

    Those that know the teachings of the Church, at one time accepted those as true, but who turned from the Church, dissent from those teachings, and depart completely from the fullness of the faith. Pride reigns.

    Those that know the Church teachings and accept all of her. Humility at work with knowledge, wisdom, good counsel, and fear of the Lord.

    Does Johanne's friend fall in camp one, two, or three?

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  9. Allison, I agree with JoAnna! I think my head might have exploded. And I always wonder about RCIA teachers who prep their folks about that profession of faith, ("I profess and believe ALL…"). Do they snicker and and tell them, "I know you don't believe this, but just say it anyway"? And why would anyone want to become Catholic if it's all a big lie and they don't believe what they are joining or promising? What happened to honor? So many questions I have. Sigh.

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    1. 'why would anyone want to' become Catholic'?....with such dwindling numbers and with so many 'cafeteria' Catholics...many issues have to be truly examined because most are issues of discipline not doctrine. Discipline is like 'policy' and can be and has been changed when the Catholic Church decided to do so.

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  10. Nubby, interesting! I wonder where Johanne's friends fall on that list.

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  11. One of my favorite prayers is Act of Faith, which I learned in my childhood and which I repeat often. One sentence in it says, "I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them who are eternal truth and wisdom, who can neither deceive nor be deceived." When I pray these words, I realize that there may possibly be a teaching of which I am unfamiliar or perhaps have forgotten with the passage of time. But I place my trust in God and in the Church which He founded and promised to guide and protect through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

    I'm rather sure I know and understand the major creeds of our faith. They are merely a summary, and there are libraries of books, I can imagine, that explain the parts of the creeds. Little by little we can learn more and grow in depth and breadth of understanding.

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  12. LOVE. This post is so.good. I've been kind of fascinated, since joining the Church, by the sheer number of Catholics who don't believe Church teaching. For a convert, it makes me wonder, why BE Catholic? I do think it's a bit of a Protestant mindset, the idea that you can be Catholic but disagree with so many of the doctrines and dogmas. You put all of this so well!!!

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    1. Yeah, as a convert as well, I don't get why all these Protestants sit in Catholic churches every... er, once or twice a year? I guess I don't get the "identity" even if they don't care a lick for what the Church teaches thing...

      Well, God works in mysterious ways, maybe a seed gets planted somewhere that doesn't end up being rocky ground.

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    2. Jarnor, yes he does work in mysterious ways! I am living proof. From my late teens until my 40th birthday I was a Protestant Catholic. Deep down I knew this was the Church Christ established, but I felt she was in deseparate need of modernization. It was my mission to stay in some sort of 'civil disobedience", to help bring about change. I think if I had actually had the integrity to leave the church I may never have looked back. But just by being around the Eucharist during my sporadic attendance at mass, God blessed me and rained down the water needed to feed my dried up seeds of faith. I prayed for wisdom and understanding and he bestowed them in abundance. Faithful to the Magesterium for the rest of my life!

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  13. Roman Catholic - No qualifiers, I believe Christ founded the Church to help guide us home to Him. I don't claim to be smarter than God so I'll trust His Church.
    That's my religion info on my facebook page...I'm not fringe, I'm all in.

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  14. "I'm not fringe, I'm all in."

    This pretty much says it all! Those on the fringe are the ones who are not all in!

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  15. What saddens and despairs me is the seeming immunity of most people, including former Catholics and even those still professing to be members of the Church, to the truth of the Faith. You can put it right in front of them - easy texts, commplex texts, videos (Fr. Barron), songs, great priests, you name it. They will not let the Light shine through them, they will not open up, if it somehow questions their current belief, or appears to confirm prejudices. I suspect that Evil is at work here, but how can God seem to allow that? I know there is always hope, and whatever God allows, He allows for good reason. I simply mean - why does Grace not seem to operate here? I know it must, yet I can't see it. It hurts, because many of those people closed to God are friends and even family. Any of them may die at any moment, not having accepted the Truth, or actively rejected it. How unbearably sad.

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  16. Sebastian, it is painful. There are three things that help me see/understand/feel comforted about the state of those folks who will not or cannot see (we can never know which).

    First, the parable of the sower.

    Second, what Jesus told St. Faustina: "The greatest sinner has the greatest right to my mercy."

    Third, the truth of the following (regarding people of goodwill):

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/12/can-non-catholics-be-saved.html

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  17. Thanks Leila, especially for #2. I know we can and must always pray especially for those who know the Truth and yet reject it or cannot fully accept it.

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  18. Amen!!

    Hmmmmm...I would think a "Fringe" Catholic would be a "lukewarm" soul, someone who just does what they do because they do, not really knowing the reason...but I guess that's wrong, I guess that's just lukewarm, huh? I think us bloggers, at least us bloggers that come here and that blatently put our faith out there on the line on our blogs, are on FIRE for our Lord. That's what I love about this little world of Catholic bloggers.

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  19. Jamie Jo, Amen!

    And Sebastian, we have prayers in the pews at our parish that say that very thing. Praying for those who have never heard the gospel, or who have heard it and rejected it…. Very powerful.

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  20. Leila,

    I like your vegan analogy. We now have groups of priests and lay people who would by this analogy call themselves vegan but openly campaign for an increase in meat eating leaving the rest of the world confused about what a vegan really is.

    As the Pope has said recently we need to see dissent for what it is. It's not just adding your thoughts to the debate (whether it's gay marriage, women priests or pro-choice). It's dissent and it harms the Church.

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  21. Amen. Great post! St. Irenaeus (A.D. 140- A.D. 202) said in one of his books, Against Heresies,

    "But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the Churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church which has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition."

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  22. Some people are having trouble commenting. This is from Catholic Grammie:

    I'm all in! As are my daughters and their significant others (husband, fiancé, and boyfriend (soon to be fiancé)). Fringe? I really think that you will find that many in the mid-west are standing in the center with our Papa - and aren't choosing to be "cafeteria" Catholics as encountered in other regions….

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  23. Referring back to what Allison said about being pro-choice and Catholic. Before I even started RCIA I went to the RCIA Director and told her that I was a lesbian and though I very much wanted to be part of the Catholic church, would my being a lesbian preclude me from joining the church. She did something similar to what Allison shared and patted my hand and said, "There are a lot of gays and lesbians who work in the Catholic Church and, little by little, they are helping to change that narrow perception." Luckily, I found better direction from my sponsor who made it very clear that if I continued to "practice" being a lesbian, then I was not accepting of what it meant to be Catholic and I should choose another religion. I chose a chaste, Catholic life.

    DD

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  24. My family already thinks I'm a "right wing religious nut job" so I may as well add "fringe" :-)

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    1. Precisely! Angela. The faithful following the Magisterium are extreme and have become the "fringe". As Jesus noted, "Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?" Large numbers of Catholics remain ignorant of our faith and practice as St Paul says, practicing a form of the faith but lacking its true power.

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  25. GMRUNNER, I know we are on the same side, ha ha. But we are not "extreme". We are only perceived as "extreme" by those who have left the center and heart of the Faith. We don't let them define the terms, right? ;)

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    1. For sure. In truth, our misguided brothers and sisters are the extreme. We though are the minority within our own church. You've seen this unfortunate story?:

      "An area of grave misunderstanding has emerged between the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The CDF, of course, is the principal watchdog for the Holy See on matters of doctrine. Once led by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (who now is Pope Benedict XVI), it now is headed by Cardinal William Levada, formerly archbishop of San Francisco. The LCWR is a Maryland-based umbrella group that claims about 1,500 leaders of U.S. women’s communities as members. It represents about 80 percent of the country’s 57,000 women religious."

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  26. Great discussions here and great post. I find so many times that people just don't know what it's like to be in the center. But it's a wonderful place to be! :). I really loved Matthew Kelly's book "Rediscovering Catholicism" to help those who are confused come back.

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  27. Gosh, I have never thought of myself as "fringe". I agree, I feel like I'm (trying) to be in the center, as close to The Church as possible. Those truly on the fringe will fall right off with just the slightest shake. I hope and pray I'm not close to that. I hope and pray NO ONE is close to that! Great post, Leila.

    ps. My husband has been using your posts as artillary with some guys at work. He's being (nicely) attacked big time! So thank you for putting into words what we Catholics need to know. You are making a difference!

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  28. GMRUNNER, I've been watching those reports. If anyone wonders what the problem is, this should pretty much vindicate the Vatican investigation! Check out this New Age nonsense:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godandthemachine/2012/04/exhibit-a-for-explaining-the-lcwr-report/

    Blech!

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    1. Numbing, Leila.

      Yes, Paul does say we will have new transformed bodies, but she seems to suggest we can have these new bodies without death. Saying Christ did not die is heresy. Her talk veers more toward an orbit of self fulfilling humanism rather than dependent on the grace of God. The rebellion and disobedience stinks of Satan.

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  29. Second Chances, I am so glad to hear that! :)

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  30. Leila

    Imagine my surprise to come to the bubble after several days to find myself quoted in your post. In regards to Nubby's comment, probably number two and three would apply (it's more than one friend). Except in the case of number three, I'm not sure I'd say "pride" was at work. It's a case of having been very wounded by the church (clergy abuse)and then deciding to withdraw.

    The article you referenced above made me laugh out loud. I cannot stand that kind of new age garble. Are you sure it's genuine? It reads like a parody. Thanks.

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  31. Johanne, yes, woundedness is another category. So sad and regrettable. Truly.

    I promise you it's real. I've been following the garbage that the liberal nuns spout for many years. It does seem like a joke, doesn't it? But I've seen it in person, at catechetical conferences before we got a strong bishop. The sisters seriously were like bad parodies, and they truly do not even sound like Catholics. They are New Agers, and they truly despise the "institutional church". Now you can see why Catholics are so frustrated, and why we are happy that after many decades, the Church finally is intervening. People think the Vatican has a heavy hand, but in reality, they are VERY lenient and slow to crack down. Those sisters should be glad I'm not pope!! ;)

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  32. so where is the direction of the american church going?

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    1. In the decades to come, I imagine just as God gave the "Faith" from the Jews to the Gentiles, He will pass on the faith from America and Europe to the billions of Chinese and third world nations who do not yet know Christ.

      A couple of nights ago, Jon Stewart and The Daily Show featured a naked woman with her legs spread wide open and a Nativity Manger with the Baby Jesus between her legs and called it the the vagina manger. Such disrespectful antics no longer even raise an eyebrow in America.

      The late writer Christopher Hitchens was critical of Mother Teresa as choice for Nobel Peace Prize and dismissive of her acceptance speech when she said abortion was the greatest danger to world peace. Yet, maybe her assessment was correct due to the decadence and corruption abortion encourages in a country's spirit. Other disobedient rebellion evils follow closely behind.

      With the millions of abortions we allow, perhaps God will remove His favor from the United States.

      My father mentioned a WWII story where during a battle, the Chinese would lose 50,000 troops and the Japanese would lose 5,000 troops. And the Chinese general was pleased. When questioned he said, "Soon there will be no more Japanese, but there will still be plenty of Chinese.

      So, I wonder if God will one day use the non practicing Western Church as seedling to implant the Faith through a world war or economic collapse to Africa and Asia.

      I easily imagine Jesus telling us as He did the Jews in Jerusalem, "I longed to take you under my wings like a mother hen gathers her chicks but you would not let Me."

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    2. GMRUNNER, it's kind of interesting that you view the faith as being passed on from America to the Chinese, etc. Catholicism had been in Shanghai for about 350 years before the communists attempted to destroy the Church and drive her underground in the 1950s. That's a lot longer than the United States has even been around. Given how much American identity-- both in the colonial period and the Early National period-- has predicated itself on "anti-Popery" to a very real degree, one might argue that the United States has *always* been mission territory that sees Catholicism as an outside and foreign entity ("Know Nothings," anyone?). Interestingly enough, we get Indian and African priests in our parishes. So they are bringing the faith to us and evangelizing us as much as any faithful American Catholics may be evangelizing them.

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  33. Hi Leila--I really enjoy reading your blog. Get this--when I went through RCIA, we were told that that statement of faith we make means that we accept all the teachings revealed by God--in other words, only those revealed by God but not the other parts; so the Creed and the two infallible doctrines about Mary, and that's it. The sentence can read either way, but I just knew that wasn't correct. But it caused me a great deal of confusion as I entered the Church.

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  34. Dachsiemama, whhhaaaa……???? That is INSANE! And no way, in my humble opinion, can that sentence be read that way. Outrageous! I always wonder why on earth those RCIA teachers even bother to help people enter a Church that even they don't believe in. It makes ZERO sense. I don't even get how people can have so little integrity in their own lives? UGH!!!

    I am so glad you found your way!

    Shaking my head….

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  35. This is why I'm not Catholic -- I wouldn't be able to sign a statement and profess that I believe in teachings with which I'm still struggling. It would be dishonest. (There's also that "being married to a Lutheran pastor" issue for me.)

    In terms of obedience/practice/standing, I'd say most of the commenters on this blog would fall in the "right/conservative" category. All my statement means is that y'all are more conservative/stricter in obedience compared to the baseline which for the purposes of this comment would be a Catholic who attends Mass on Sunday but that's about it. It's why I feel that labels like "fringe", "left", "right", and "liberal" are a bit misleading -- all of those change depending on who you compare. I think the "fringe" of Catholicism would be the sedevacantists and that would be debat0able by some because they don't accept the authority of the Pope.

    When we were part of the ELCA, my husband and I were definitely the conservative/right end of the spectrum and in the denomination where we are now, we're pretty much center/moderate. Again, it's all about what you consider the baseline.

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  36. jen, There's no left, right or center. This isn't politics. There's just a striving to be Catholic.

    Like math, we either believe it is a correct answer or we don't. But there's just one objective answer that's fully true.

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  37. Got a lovely email from a woman who is unable to post a comment due to an "error" -- are a lot of folks having that problem? If so, email me!

    Here is what Crystal said:

    "I love the intelligence, eloquence, and charity with which you approach these challenging issues. Standing ovation for your efforts to make Christ known and loved on His terms—through his Church and His people. May you know our Lord’s pleasure as you continue working for His glory!"

    Aw, thanks Crystal! And she included her blog address, which looks fascinating, on mother-daughter relationships:

    http://augustmother-daughterrelationships.com/

    She didn't ask me to post it, but I think it's worthy of a shout out!

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  38. Again, it's all about what you consider the baseline.

    Jen, for Catholics, the baseline doesn't move. It's always the Magisterium. That's the baseline, so no need to 'consider' that it's anywhere else. As one convert I know said, "I almost didn't convert because it seems too good to be true!" But she converted, and she knows now that it is true. We stand on an immovable Rock, and it does not shift and move when the winds of change come through, nor at the promptings of the belly. It's AWESOME, in the literal sense. :)

    Yes, sedevacantists would be toward the fringe, as they have moved away from the center, the heart of the Church. Fringe can take many forms, but it always removes itself from the Magisterium, and a need to submit in humble obedience.

    Also, it was the wonderful convert Cardinal John Henry Newman who said that "ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt". Do you have doubts or just difficulties?

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  39. Nubby: I'm aware that this isn't a math problem -- it's about striving toward Jesus. I stated things more in a sociological/statistical light to demonstrate how one *might* measure a baseline. With faith, one can't necessarily create a baseline because it's not plottable.

    Leila: I'm aware that the Magisterium is the center. If one was to make comparisons, it would be in terms of obedience to it. Again, you can't really make accurate comparisons because there are too many variables to plot as no person is completely black or white. My best friend is Catholic and is faithful to the Magesterium. If I were to compare the commenters in here to her, you might come out as more conservative. In doing so, I'd also have to factor in Mass attendance, voting according to Catholic dogma, devotion to particular saints, how she advocates for life, and a number of other things. It would be nearly impossible.

    As for whether they're doubts or difficulties in my case, I don't think either word fits it accurately though perhaps difficulties comes the closest. The issue is that there are parts of Catholic doctrine that I could not (at this point) profess belief in if I was being honest. Will I eventually get to the point where I could? I don't know. All I know is that if I were to hypothetically convert at this point, I'd be a cafeteria Catholic and that would not sit well with my conscience.

    Having said that, I have tremendous respect for the Church and I have a number of friends who are faithful Catholics who live out the teachings of the Magesterium. Being a pastor's wife, I am friends with a number of Catholic priests because they are colleagues of my husband. :) If I did consider conversion, I have a huge number of people who would be there to help me along. Right now, however, there are some of things I would have to resolve before I could consider becoming Catholic and I would be dishonest if I didn't address them.

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  40. Jen, that is understandable and I appreciate that you would not profess something you are not ready to believe or follow through on.

    And only because I'm a stickler for clarity, the things you mention as signs of "conservatism" are not all in that category. For example, Sunday mass attendance (and Holy Days of obligation) is obligatory on pain of mortal sin for every Catholic. Any Catholic who willfully misses mass without a good reason (illness, etc.) is not faithful to the Magisterium. Some things (Deposit of Faith, precepts of the Church) are non-negotiable. As to what saints someone prefers or venerates, that is not an issue of "faithful vs. unfaithful" Catholic. Same with "the way one advocates for life" (though voting in rabid pro-aborts might in fact be a problem, since there is a hierarchy of truth.)

    Anyway, those are just a couple of distinctions I wanted to throw out there….

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  41. I'm including faithful Sunday Mass attendance as well as attendance on Days of Obligation into the baseline as my best friend does that as well as daily Mass when she can. As I said, she's faithful to the Magisterium. (She's the reason I have a rosary.) It was a conjecture I was making on the condition that I had data that could be plotted. I would probably say that you are more conservative in that you do more for the pro-life cause and you are farther to the right on the political spectrum than she is but again, those are subjective things because not everybody can participate in a March for Life and your choices for voting are limited to what candidates you have. (We're in northern California -- our Republican candidates would be Democrats elsewhere.)

    I also don't know how you feel about ecumenical activities (she participates) and even those vary from place to place. The Lutheran parish where my husband did his pastoral internship was across the street from a Catholic church and a Methodist church so the three would get together for the Liturgy of the Palms on Palm Sunday, do the readings, and then process into their own sanctuaries. In Minnesota and Montana, I knew the Catholic priests in town well because we were in such rural areas that all the Christians stuck together so that we could accomplish more. In the town in northern California where we are now, the priest of the Catholic parish chooses not to do anything with the ministerial association so I haven't met him.

    I guess the bottom line of what I've tried to say is that you can't really call the people here "the fringe" unless the baseline is farther left than the Magisterium actually is. People aren't black and white.

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  42. Jen, By definition faith is not measurable and thus you cannot plot it. The baseline is the teachings of the church. No need to plot.

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  43. I'd also like to reiterate than any comparisons I'm making are pure conjecture and also let people know that this isn't unique to Catholicism. For example, there are 14 Lutheran denominations in the USA and at least 8-10 of them consider everyone else "not Lutheran enough" because they don't read "the Confessions" the same way. The reason there are so many has a little bit to do with ethnicity and a lot to do with disagreements over doctrine.

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  44. Jen, Lutheranism was founded on the basis of rejection of any Church authority. It's a different paradigm altogether. Our Catholic Church is founded on a hierarchy with Peter and his successors as the Christ's Vicar on earth. We have a touchstone for orthodoxy. Do we have different styles and spiritualities in the Church? Yes, many, many, many! But only one Deposit of Faith. There are no "conflicting" sects. We hold to one faith, and it's not up for discussion. It's revealed and received. So, though you may find Catholics acting like we work off the Protestant paradigm, it's not reflective at all of how Catholics receive and define what is True.

    So, I'm not sure how comparing Lutheran "splits and fissures" to Catholicism has any merit at all. In Lutheranism, one is free to interpret things for oneself. There is no definitive Church authority to submit to. Every man is his own final authority on things of Scripture, doctrine, etc. It's the opposite of Catholicism in that way. So, not sure how it's comparable at all?

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  45. For example, there are 14 Lutheran denominations in the USA and at least 8-10 of them consider everyone else "not Lutheran enough" because they don't read "the Confessions" the same way. The reason there are so many has a little bit to do with ethnicity and a lot to do with disagreements over doctrine.

    You got problems on your side basically since (and because of) the reformation. If we Catholics have problems over doctrine, it's not because any church sect has broken away.

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  46. Leila and Nubby: I wasn't trying to compare it to Catholicism -- the two can't be compared and I have no desire to get into a discussion on that. I was using Lutheranism as an example of one group saying that another is on "the fringe" or "not Lutheran enough". I usually just smile politely when I hear about those discussions and walk away.

    One thing that does irritate me though is when I hear from Lutherans that a practice (example: Ash Wednesday) is "too Catholic". You'd think we taught that the Lutheran church *magically* descended from heaven in 1517 or something when people talk like that.

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  47. Welp. Your church is founded on a man, by a man, not necessarily a magician, but a man. Our is founded by Christ.

    What's your overall point?

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    1. Actually, the Catholic church was founded by men, as well. The only written record man has from God is the Bible, where you read about Christ's earthly ministry, teaching, life, death and resurrection. Many, many teachings and practices of the Catholic Church are found nowhere in Scripture. And if it's not found in Scripture, then it's man made. The only true "religion" is the one that is founded entirely upon the teaching and preaching of God's Word. Denomination and opinion don't matter at all - only God's Word matters.

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    2. Aclark, please see below, the last comment, where I have answered you. I have a hard time finding these comments unless they are at the bottom, in linear fashion. Sorry and thanks!

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  48. I was using Lutheranism as an example of one group saying that another is on "the fringe" or "not Lutheran enough".

    Yes, because in Lutheranism, no one can claim any authority, so the idea that there is one Lutheran faith to submit to is ludicrous. There cannot really be a "fringe" to Lutheranism, as there is no central authority at all.

    But there can indeed be a "fringe" in Catholicism, and it's legit to talk about it. It's legit to say that there is a "center" to submit to and to be faithful to.

    So, I'm still not sure of the point. Lutheranism cannot have "dissenters" from the norm, since there is no "norm" or authority.

    I do agree and sympathize with your second paragraph.

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  49. In other words, Catholics have a way to measure what is "fringe" and Lutherans don't. So, we Catholics can talk about our "fringe" and it means something.

    That's why it's weird and funny when Catholic dissenters call Magisterium-believing Catholics "fringe" and when they call the Pope "extreme". You get that that's bizarre and funny, don't you?

    It's just so obviously off-base.

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  50. True story: when I was still Lutheran, I heard about a church split (i.e., members of one Lutheran congregation split off to form their own sect) that happened because of a disagreement over the color of the hymnals. (One side wanted green, the other red).

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  51. My point was that every church/religion/system of belief has discussions about what is "fringe" and what isn't. Catholics aren't immune from it.

    Lutherans do have a norm or authority -- it's just not the Pope. Our norm/authority is Scripture and the writings of Luther. Regardless of whether or not you deem them authoritative, it's the baseline we use. Disagreements usually come down to brass tacks. Again, this is not meant to apply to Catholics. I'm simply addressing the point of what the norm is for Lutherans.

    And yes Leila, it's amusing that people talk about the Pope being "extreme". Playing the other side, he might seem extreme compared to other popes but I think a lot of that comes down to the affinity one feels for a particular pope and not the stances taken. JPII will always be "my pope" because he was the only one I knew until the age of 25. Still, I wouldn't question the authority of Benedict XVI because he is the Pope and he's part of the apostolic succession.

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  52. I'd just like to say, I am very happy I found Catholicism through the internet (bloggers like you! etc) first, and did not rely on a congregation or my RCIA class. As a former Protestant from a Pentecostal church- I was dumbfounded when I realized there were people in my Catholic Church- long time members and lay leaders- who did not agree with the Catholic Church on things such as abortion. I had men and women telling me, (a catechumen!!) the reasons why abortion is a good thing. You don't find that in a Pentecostal church! If you are a member and a lay leader in a Pentecostal Church then you firmly believe what the church teaches and if you say otherwise the Pastor and Elders would put you in your place. There was zero tolerance for undermining the teachings of the church. So "fringe" or not, I'm glad there are people out there that say they believe in everything the Catholic Church teaches, and actually mean it.

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  53. I think you can enter the Catholic Church and not be convinced of everything. I am not totally on board with the whole Mother Mary thing and the Rosary. BUT I am reading about it, and trying to understand, and I would NEVER voice my current view in front of other members of the church and especially catechumens and even my children. There are so many teachings of the Catholic Church, and for me it's a process of reading and praying about each of these teachings. If members of the church are not convinced and convicted about certain Catholic teachings, they need to keep seeking answers, and keep their mouth shut unless it's to genuinely ask a question to further understand the church. We are responsible for what we teach our newest members, and people who are thinking about entering the Catholic Church. We should never allow dissension in the church, no matter what our opinion is.

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    1. Bartley's, Marian doctrine was a difficult thing for me when I converted too. And I find that the worse my prayer life gets, even now, that I tend to shy away from Mary first. Here is a quote that recently helped melt away any doubt I had in my mind of the importance of Mary:

      “The Devil fears the Virgin Mary more, not only than men and angels but, in a certain sense, than God himself. It is not that the wrath, the power and the hatred of God are not infinitely greater than those of the Blessed Virgin, since Mary’s perfections are limited: it is because, in the first place, Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being overcome and punished by the little, humble servant of God, her humility humiliating him more than the divine power; and secondly, because God has given Mary such great power over devils that, as they have often been obliged to admit, in spite of themselves, through the mouths of possessed persons, they are more afraid of one of her sighs of grief over some poor soul, than of the prayers of the saints, and more daunted by a single threat from her than by all their other torments”

      -Evidence of Satan in the Modern World by Monsignor Leon Cristiani, Roman Catholic Priest

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    2. Oh, we're pentecostal converts, too (8 years now)~ My husband was a pastor with the Assemblies of God. For quite a few years, I would say that I Believed what the Church taught about Mary, but that's it. We, too, are always reading and listening because we believe that the Church is a Truth-teaching mechanism and it's our problem, not Hers. God bless you guys!

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  54. Our norm/authority is Scripture and the writings of Luther.

    Well, when I was in the ELCA, I discovered that wasn't true. For example, Luther revered Mary, and modern Lutheran sects (such as the ELCA) ignore those teachings. Then there's the matter of his writings such as "On the Jews and their Lies" - Lutheran sects don't adhere to those, either.

    I don't know about other Lutheran sects, but the body in the ELCA responsible for establishing church doctrine is the Churchwide Assembly, under the direction of the presiding bishop. They may take some of Luther's writings under consideration, but they definitely cherry-pick what they want to use and how it is interpreted.

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    1. Actually, Lutherans do revere Mary but the extent of it depends on the parish and also where you are geographically. My husband's internship site was in Ohio and we celebrated her feast day on the Sunday after the Assumption. I cannot see that happening in Minnesota or Montana where there was a desire to separate themselves from the Catholics.

      The ELCA Churchwide Assembly decides how the writings of Luther are interpreted. Mine takes them at face value as does the Missouri Synod.

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    2. I was an active member of ELCA churches in North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wyoming; Mary was barely ever mentioned in any of them. My husbamd's grandparents attend an ELCA church here in AZ, same thing.

      What do you mean when you say Luther's writings are taken at face value in your denomination?

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  55. What was the ethnicity of those ELCA churches? If they were Scandinavian, Mary was probably not mentioned. The Scandinavians tend to be anti-clerical (as in anti-bishop, not high church) because the bishops would ally themselves with the aristocracy in the 19th century and subjegate the peasantry. Scandinavian churches also have traces of pietism which was a religious movement started by Hauge in the 19th century in Norway. I've found that the German ELCA congregations are a little more amenable to the mention of Mary though that can vary as well depending on the number of evangelical and Baptist converts you have.

    When I say that they're taken at face value, I'm saying that we take the Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism, and Large Catechism at face value -- no cherry-picking. If you want to read the stances that my denomination takes, go to http://www.taalc.org.

    I also totally believe you about the hymnals because the ELCA came out with a new one in 2007 and my husband's parish in Montana refused to buy them. His current parish (which jumped ship from the ELCA over the sexuality issue and the cherry-picking going on) has the new ones (which I hate) and we supplement any music we can't find in them with music from the green ones.

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    1. The ND/MN churches were Scandinavian; I've no idea about my WY church or the one here in AZ.

      I agree with you that the ELCA cherry-picks; it's one of the reasons I ultimately left. The difference is that I didn't see that any of the other Lutheran offshoots as having a better or more legitimate claim to authority to interpret Scripture.

      I'm curious; you talk about the Augsburg Confession and the Small & Large Catechism, but what about some of his more repugnant writings (such as the formerly-referenced On the Jews and their Lies? On what basis do you disregard these writings but accept the others?

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  56. Actually, I should probably mention that we do ignore the parts about "the Papists" being evil.

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  57. Jen, so your Lutheran denomination adheres most closely to Lutheranism? What would the other Lutheran sects say about that? And on what authority could you say that either of you is right or wrong?

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  58. My point was that every church/religion/system of belief has discussions about what is "fringe" and what isn't. Catholics aren't immune from it.

    I'm not disagreeing with your point. Of course we can discuss what is fringe in Catholicism, because a fringe actually exists. This post is just clarifying that the fringe is NOT those who submit in obedience to the Magisterium.

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  59. I would say that mine is true to the Confessions. As far as how we compare, we are more conservative than the ELCA (whose hierarchy I hate to say does cherry-pick) and the main way we differ with the LCMS (Missouri Synod) and the WELS (Wisonsin Synod) has to do with whom we fellowship and things like the roles women are allowed to play in the church. The LCMC and NALC are off-shoots of the ELCA over communion agreements with other mainline Protestant denominations and the sexualty decision at Churchwide Assembly 2009. There are a number of ELCA congregations who belong to LCMC and NALC as well and I have no idea how that works as I stopped trying to make sense of church politics years ago.

    I'm Lutheran partially because I happened to fall in love with a Lutheran seminarian and partially because it was a way to balance the evangelical church I attended in college with the Episcopal church where I came to faith in high school. Luther's writings actually made sense to me at 19 years old and that's why I stayed with it.

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  60. Jen, I just remembered that I expounded on the point I'm trying to make here in the comments, earlier:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2011/04/catholicism-is-objective-protestantism.html

    The gentleman who took me on on this, by the way, has since left the Baptist church and is inching toward a more historic Church. ;)

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    1. The thing about Protestantism is that it pretty much encompasses any church that isn't Catholic or Orthodox which means it's a HUGE spectrum. I'm up to date on the history of things like Lutheranism, Anglicanism, Calvinism, Pentecostalism, and the evangelical movement (I'm a historian by training) but not all of them actually know about each other or where we all came from. A lot of the non-denominational pastors out there have little if any theological training which means they know NOTHING about Church History which means they know nothing about their Catholic origins.

      If you want to see me get really on fire, ask me about my thoughts on Joel Osteen and the prosperity gospel. :)

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  61. Jen, what makes the Confessions authoritative?

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    1. The reason they're authoritative is that they're what was agreed in the Formula of Concord in 1577. They're, for better or worse, the baseline along with Scripture.

      Again, I'm fully aware that Catholics don't find them authoritative and I'm assuming you're asking for informational purposes?

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  62. Did any of your ELCA churches observe saint's days if they fell on Sunday? That might be another German ELCA thing. (I don't say "German Lutheran" because that was how they referred to the LCMS in Minnesota -- something that amused the other ELCA pastor in town and I to no end because he and my husband are both German.) I know that the pastors coming out of my seminary were taught to do that and whether or not it happened depended on the synod and parish where they ended up. The way I explained Mary to my confirmation kids was that she is special because she was chosen to bear Jesus and did so joyfully. I explain that the saints are examples to us in the faith from whom we can learn.

    Keep in mind that Luther was a prodigious writer -- at his death, his hand contorted into the position it would be in if he was holding a pen. (I've seen copies of the castings taken of his hands and his death mask.)

    The documents of Luther to which one much adhere to be "Confessional" are the Small Catechism, the Large Catechism, and the Smalkald Articles. The Augsburg Confession was written by Philip Melanchthon and that's the other one that I've seen used for "confessional regularity" purposes.

    "On the Jews and Their Lies" isn't considered part of the Confessions (at least I've never seen it referenced in the thousands of pages of discussion I had to read on them in seminary) and most Lutheran scholars consider it a product of Luther's time though it was used as evidence against the Jews during World War II. (Then again, even some writings of Henry Ford were used during the Third Reich.) Lutheran leaders have apologized for it since.

    Luther's commentary on Ezekiel is also pretty interesting if you're worried about living in the End Times as Luther thought he was. (The Turks were knocking at the gates of Vienna as he was writing it.)

    As for the ELCA, a large problem was that it was the union of some smaller churches with different polities (example: district president vs. bishop) and different traditions (again, different ethnicities has their own practices). You also have a pretty large spectrum of belief because the coasts are much more liberal than the Midwest and you can imagine some of the cat fights that can break out. The seminaries are also much more liberal than the laity are so that's another issue. The leadership also has a huge issue with throwing their pastors under the bus any time a congregation has a problem. The exception was the bishop we had during our first two years in Montana who stuck up for his pastors. Having said that, there are some thing I miss like the amazing collegiality that we had in Montana where I was an equal partner in ministry instead of just someone's wife.

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  63. 1st of all - I liked your vegan analogy. But the meat-eaters are not mainstream vegans, even if they have great numbers behind them. And this is it. To continue with the analogy - essentially the meat-eaters are not vegans at all, because vegan is defined as "a", "b", and "c".

    2nd - Dachsiemama - we were told that that statement of faith we make means that we accept all the teachings revealed by God--in other words, only those revealed by God but not the other parts; so the Creed and the two infallible doctrines about Mary, and that's it. Yep, I was told this too. Not just by RCIA, but also by a theology student who is now one of those nuns.

    3rd (which is also kinda with 2nd too) Jen said this, This is why I'm not Catholic -- I wouldn't be able to sign a statement and profess that I believe in teachings with which I'm still struggling. It would be dishonest. Rather than rewrite the story I'll refer to you the following http://www.innocenceexperience.org/2011/06/the-start-of-conversion/
    This is my conversion story, so-to-speak, and it addresses that exact issue.

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    1. First Leila, forgive me for clicking "Reply"-I read the rules starting with "PLEASE, when commenting" but I'm afraid I'm feeling rather thick tonight--I don't understand them. It seems like clicking Reply is the only way to….well, reply. Maybe you can clarify? Thanks.

      In thinking over what I was told in RCIA (and others like Bethany too, it appears), this still has the power to confuse me. Part of it is I try to understand too much at once, and I know that there are 3 basic levels of authority in the Church (maybe 6 according to Ludwig Ott?)…the things being revealed by God being #1. The thing the RCIA leaders did *not* tell us was that all levels require submission and obedience of some sort! Still…..confused. I trust that Christ founded one holy Catholic and apostolic church, and that Jesus really rose from the dead and guided the apostles, and that they were extremely careful to pass on what He taught, and only what He taught. I also get that He put all this power in human hands, and chose Judas. This is hard to understand!!!

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  64. 2nd - Dachsiemama - we were told that that statement of faith we make means that we accept all the teachings revealed by God--in other words, only those revealed by God but not the other parts; so the Creed and the two infallible doctrines about Mary, and that's it. Yep, I was told this too. Not just by RCIA, but also by a theology student who is now one of those nuns.

    Wow, this is so stinking CRAZY, especially because (did anyone notice??) the entire moral law is absent from this! It would be the points of faith/creed, but not the points of morality/Commandments! How convenient is that? I cannot believe this crap!!! (Sorry, but WOW is that nuts!!!)

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    1. I have an entire "Catholic community" in our town that is fed this stuff on a regular basis! I can't tell you how much of a dark night I've experienced since my conversion. Now I'm older and hopefully wiser and less naive about evil in the world, but I didn't expect it to come from the Church--I really didn't. This is why it's so hard for me to sort out truth from non-truth; part of it is that I was deeply influenced by Luther's theology, both because of my heritage and just reading Romans on my own--it's kind of like a fabric where the threads of heresy are so closely interwoven with truth that I can't personally sort it out; I wouldn't be good at teaching Catholicism, I don't think, not at this point. So going through my crazy RCIA really made me wonder where the truth is--the Good News is that the Holy Spirit guided me firmly through this mess so I could join the Church with many graces from God. After that, it's been sort of dark….getting better, though. And it's definitely true that the problem with RCIA was that Humanae Vitae was the elephant in the room. I deeply resent to this day the fact that they weren't honest about that. I try to hope it wasn't deliberate; I think they really just believed this stuff to be true. Talk about "fringe"! Thank you so much for providing a forum for me to vent!

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    2. And wow--YES!! That's it exactly--moral theology is what was lacking. And yet it was taught in other ways--10 Commandments, precepts, etc. I truly, truly believe that the nun teaching this had been formed properly and gone off track without realizing it; that, and maybe the Holy Spirit still worked through her to teach us some really solid stuff. But see what I mean about error? She was so solid on so many things, and yet there was this weird stuff that gave me cognitive dissonance. Sorry for going on and on, but I became physically and mentally ill for a couple of years after entrance into the Church because of all this. It's so hard to let go and forgive, but gotta do it!

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  65. The reason they're authoritative is that they're what was agreed in the Formula of Concord in 1577. They're, for better or worse, the baseline along with Scripture.

    No, I'm asking why anyone would consider them authoritative? Why would this be a legitimate Christian authority? From whence would such an authority come? For example, how come I cannot write a popular catechism or confession and have it be authoritative?

    Catholics believe that authority has to be delegated, it can't just be declared ("I'm a legitimate authority!" "My book is authoritative!"). Who delegated the authority to the leaders of the Reformation?

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  66. If you believe Protestantism has Catholic origins, why aren't you with the original Church? I get that you don't believe some of the teachings, but if it was "there first", isn't it the Church Christ founded? Why is the Lutheran Church more authentic or true? After all, it's only been around for 500 years and it's changed its teachings greatly since Luther founded it.

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  67. Hi daschiemama, sorry to confuse you! Blogger didn't used to have the "reply" option under each comment and I liked it so much better that way. Now I can never figure out where the comments are that are popping into my email. And sometimes, people will just come back here and want to follow the conversation in a linear way, which is impossible now, as they have to go back up and search for sections. I hate it!! I just meant, by the "rule", to put each new comment at the very bottom of all the comments. If you are replying to something very specific from above, you can just cut and paste that part and put it in quotes or something (I used italics) right before your response to it. Does that make sense?

    As for what you are confused about, I like to keep it simple. Things that have been taught "always and everywhere" are part of the "ordinary and universal Magisterium". As opposed to the ex cathedra statements, of which there have only been two "officially". So, essentially, the Creed and the Ten Commandments (Faith and Morals, i.e, The Deposit of Faith), and all that they imply and all that the Church believes about them. All that is to be believed as revealed by God. Here is something on infallibility:

    http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2010/07/answer-to-doctrinal-quiz-show-third.html

    Hope that helps at least a little!

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    1. Thanks Leila--I get it now! And it helps that the comment I'm now replying to is actually the very last one! Anyway--I'll look over your link…..I kind of get it; I mean, for the longest time I didn't get where Holy Communion and the Real Presence fit in that scheme of things….but it's implied in the Creed isn't it--in all that's said about Jesus.
      And jen--I wasn't taking a knock at Lutherans in my comment--really I wasn't! I was trying to say that RCIA was confusing for me especially because I had all these various Christian beliefs in my head, not just Lutheran, but Baptist as well, and when they didn't agree I figured it was my problem in not understanding things.

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  68. PS: Vent anytime!! I am glad you found the Bubble!! Should help to clear up some stuff, ha ha!

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  69. Sorry for being so long-winded but I'm so excited--I just started reading your doctrinal quiz show link and read this:

    The (incorrect) answer I expected to get: "Two doctrines have been taught infallibly: the Immaculate Conception of Mary, and the Bodily Assumption of Mary, both of which were declared ex cathedra by a pope."
    The real answer: We can’t give an exact number, because ex cathedra pronouncements are only one type of infallibility.

    (Sorry I'd put it in italics but can't figure out how to do it on my Mac). But yes!! That's it!! That's what we were told in RCIA. Only 2 infallible statements.

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  70. Or at least--that's what I thought I heard. OK--I'll stop hijacking the thread now.

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  71. dachsiemama, I know, it drives me crazy that people are taught that there were only two infallible things taught…. agh!!!

    And, as far as the Eucharist: It is one of those "always and everywhere" teachings. There has never been a time since the beginning of the Church (starting with the Last Supper) that that was not a teaching of the Church. It has been the "source and summit" of Christian worship since Day One. So, that definitely falls under infallibly taught. :)

    All the Sacraments and the nature of the Sacraments, too. Glad to be of help! :)

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  72. Oh, and for italics, just put this around the part you want to italicize:

    < i >text here< /i >

    But with no spaces. And if you use a "b", it will bold. It's very cool.

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  73. dachsiemama: No worries. I'm not offended. One of my professors from seminary jumped ship to Rome in 2010 and is now on staff with the Catholic University of America. If you landed in Rome after prayer and discernment, who am I to tell you that you're wrong?

    Leila: I don't know if I can ever give you an answer you're going to like and accept so I guess we're at an impasse. My answer is that I believe in the "catholic" as in universal church. The Roman Church has changed over time and while the problems that Luther took issue with have been fixed (which was the catalyst of the Reformation -- abuses in the Church), there are things that have come since that I am at an impasse in terms of belief. For some reason, Orthodox theology is more palatable and it might be that the West has parsed out every detail of faith while the East has largely left things a mystery. I'm saying this having read theology from Catholic sources, Lutheran sources, and Orthodox sources. I've also read volumes of history from multiple perspectives including primary documents.

    As far as how these documents are authoritative, I believe that there was a great deal of deliberation, discernment, and prayer that went into it. I'm aware that your argument is that I'm putting my authority into the writings of men and I understand your argument despite the fact that I respectfully disagree.

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  74. It's not about giving me the answer I want, it's about giving an answer that is logical. I hear that those are your opinions, but I want something more objective. You imply that the Church has changed the Deposit of Faith over the centuries. Which parts? You imply that Luther fixed things… Well, the corruption (sin) in the Church that he rightly abhorred was fixed (sinners in the Church? What's new?), but it's the stuff he changed (i.e., the new doctrine -- what we call heresy -- that he introduced), well that is what we take issue with. We are fine with him rooting out corruption. We are not fine with him changing doctrine, and contradicting the Deposit of Faith, which he had no authority to change.

    Your last paragraph makes no sense to me. Something has divine authority because people deliberated a long time and prayed about it? But who were these people, and what authority did they have? The question you never answered: Who delegated God's authority to them?

    For example, there is NO model of church in the New Testament that has self-appointed leaders who give themselves authority. Not in the Old Testament, either.

    So, from whence did Luther and his fellow Reformers get their authority? How and when did that happen?

    Thanks!

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  75. there are things that have come since that I am at an impasse in terms of belief.

    What has come since then?

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  76. Leila, I've answered you as best I can. I don't take any of this lightly and I do pray about what I'm reading. Considering that at least half of my feed reader are Catholic blogs and I'm reading a book written by Catholic women faithful to the Magesterium, I'm in a good place if I were to want to leave my Lutheran church and become Catholic. I apologize that my logic is not sufficient for you. I am, the words of Paul's letter to the Philippians, "working out my salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12b) and should these workings take me in the direction of Catholicism, I'll definitely seek your counsel and help.

    Until then, "here I stand, I can do no different".

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  77. My 'Catholic' sister is a great promoter in women priests, doesn't believe in Confession, thinks the Pope is just one voice among many etc, etc, yet she is the leader of her parish RCIA and tells me proudly that she and her Parish priest are 'on the same page spiritually.'! I could weep...

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  78. Don't have time to read through the comments, but jast wanted to let you know that this was an AWESOME post Leila! You hit the nail on the head!

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  79. During a Catechist class about Holy Orders, we got totally sidetracked with our priest and had an interesting/informational/important discussion about why someone would leave the church when the Catholic church has MORE to offer than any other church. Here is a summary: http://www.dofairiesflybackwards.blogspot.com/2012/03/nothing-to-lose.html

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  80. Jen, please don't read my questions as combative in any way. I am truly just curious. I asked you where they get their authority, i.e., who delegated it to them. I am going to assume, then, that your answer is either 1) "no one" or 2) "I don't know". I do think you'd make a great Catholic! Have you ever seen this site?

    http://chnetwork.org/

    It's mostly for clergy considering a move to Catholicism. (Or those who love them, ha ha.)

    A lot of the non-denominational pastors out there have little if any theological training which means they know NOTHING about Church History which means they know nothing about their Catholic origins.

    One more clarification if you're up for it: What do you mean by "their Catholic origins", above?

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  81. Jean, that is HORRID. Very sad. I'll bet the pews there are not full of young children and families, and I'll bet they never have vocations coming out of that parish. Why do they even bother? Sad, sad.

    Traci, that is great! And so true! Especially, why would anyone leave the Eucharist?? I've heard it said that what Luther did was cut the faith in half. He severed the connection between Heaven and earth (jettison Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, most of the Sacraments, the Magisterium [ruling in concert with Heaven, guided by the Spirit], took the Bible, ditched Sacred Tradition, took the meal, ditched the Sacrifice, etc., etc.). They lost a lot, and it's a glory when they come back to the fullness of the Faith!

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  82. The authority of doctrine is simply explained in the book I read, Confessions of Mega-Church Pastor. Our pastor gave every family that book as we were leaving church on Easter Sunday.

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  83. I have heard some Catholic friends say they don't believe in confession. Then as they get more involved in parish life in various ways they end up going to confession. So you never know. There's hope for everyone. That's what great about Jesus and the Church. There's hope for everyone! I have deepened my faith over the years.

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  84. Lena, thank you!

    And, isn't it weird how many people don't "believe" in Confession, even though it's one of the seven sacraments! That's so bizarre to me. One might not like it or want it, but it's hard to see how they can deny something so basic. Also, it's the way back to the state of grace once one has sinned mortally and squandered the grace of Baptism, so it's not only basic, but it's necessary for salvation if one has sinned mortally after baptism. I should do a post on the Cycle of Redemption, which I think is largely unknown to American Catholics.

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  85. The second reading of this third Sunday of Easter captures well what is most unfortunate for fringe Catholics in what they are missing in their relationship with God through ignorance and/or disobedience.

    St John in his letter writes:

    The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep
    his commandments.

    Those who say, "I know him," but do not keep his commandments
    are liars, and the truth is not in them.

    But whoever keeps his word,
    the love of God is truly perfected in him.

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  86. Well, Leila, I can totally understand why people don't "believe" in Confession...it goes back to the same reason that people don't get it about the Eucharist, either: 30 years of terrible Catechesis in Catholic schools.

    When I was in school we made our first FHE in the second grade, but we didn't make out first Confession until the 4th grade. The Eucharist and Confession are so linked together that severing them basically demeaned the meaning of both. Confession isn't properly understood as something necessary to prepare you for the Eucharist, and the Eucharist isn't seen with as much reverence for one's state of grace in receiving.

    Then when we were taken to Confession twice a year, we NEVER did an examination of conscience. The teachers would just say "Think about the Ten Commandments that you broke." In the eyes of the improperly formed ten-year-old kid, this basically means that you either disobeyed your parents, told a lie, or maybe stole something minor. And for me and my peers, we might not actually remember doing any of these things, so we would just pick one that sounded reasonable to tell the priest whether we really thought we had done it or not. (And don't get me started on how many sins of irreverence we committed in the Church while waiting for our turn in the Confession line.)

    Confession becomes not only meaningless but an occasion for sin in and of itself. In high school, a priest would come once a month to hear confessions during lunchtime, but I know that neither me nor my friends ever went. In fact I never went again from my last "mandatory" time in 8th grade until I was about 31. Reading Scott Hahn, various Catholic bloggers, and talking to another orthodox Catholic mom educated me about what Confession really is...mending our relationship with God in the same way that we mend it in our earthly relationships...out-loud confession, apology, making amends, and reconciliation.

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  87. Jen wrote: "For some reason, Orthodox theology is more palatable and it might be that the West has parsed out every detail of faith while the East has largely left things a mystery."

    One reason this is because the Orthodox Church isn't as large or centrally organized as the Catholic Church, so from an administrative stand-point it became a little more necessary to make sure that everyone was on the same page.

    The second reason is that the PEOPLE started asking all of these questions that they wanted the Church to answer.

    And the third reason has been to counteract the many, many heresies that have come up over time. I don't know how the Orthodox Church handles heresies that arise.

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  88. Leila: By "they don't know about their Catholic origins", they don't know that the "new cool way" they're worshipping is two thousand years old and that there is a 2nd(?) century document called the Didache outlining it.

    One thing that gets on my nerves are parents who make a deal with their kids that if their kid will go through Confirmation, they don't have to go to church again or they'll only have to go for Christmas and Easter. Their (faulty) reasoning is that by going through Confirmation, their child will learn about their faith and love it. Unfortunately, that rarely happens and I know most of my friends in college had never darkened the doorway of a church since their Confirmation.

    This is the reason why I tell my confirmands that if they aren't ready to profess their faith in front of the church, they should wait and that I will go to bat for them if their parents have a problem with it. In 8 years, I've never had any kid choose not to be confirmed but I have had a few who are confirmed on the condition that they can keep asking questions if they encounter something with which they're struggling.

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  89. Dachsiemama, I feel bad for you that you became physically and mentally ill after joining the Church due to a crazy RCIA experience.

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  90. Hey, Leila... remember when you didn't have a blog? ;)

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  91. Barbara, well-said re: the Eastern Orthodox vs. Catholic! And Jen, there are Eastern Rite Catholics, too, who keep the "mystery" if that's what you desire. My parents attend and Eastern Rite Catholic Church (Melkite).

    Barbara, you nailed it! Have you read my reversion story (up top)? I didn't go to confession from age 12 to about 26!!! And, my first confession was at age nine, two years AFTER my First Communion! So wrong.

    TCIE, I remember, ha ha! Barely! You were one of my inspirations. Still are. ;)

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  92. Lena--thank you so much for caring. I am so much better now, thanks be to God! I guess it's one of those experiences that ultimately is good for you if you keep the Faith!

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  93. Leila: I know about Eastern Rite Catholicism. :) I'm the guest post at "Fear Not Little Flock" tomorrow and priest's wife and I exchange Christmas cards. My husband and I did discuss that possibility when we jumped ship from the ELCA.

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  94. What I enjoy most about being an orthodox Catholic now is that I am not in conflict with the religion I profess, whereas the non-orthodox members are. I think so often the latter just hang on hoping for the church to change - when in essence it's their hearts that need the changing. Noting that the (open) dissent is truly scandalous and a grave concern, I'd like to add that many of us used to be part of the more liberal sect and only by the Grace of God found our way to the center.

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  95. Jen, that's awesome!

    And Danya, this is exactly right:

    "I think so often the latter just hang on hoping for the church to change - when in essence it's their hearts that need the changing."

    You have a way with saying things well and succinctly!

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  96. I am just a Catholic.. The rest are the ones who need a description..liberal, lapsed, cafeteria ..whatever.

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  97. Well stated, Leila! I love your blog. I think I'm going to print this post and hand it out at my next family reunion which will be full of non-practicing Catholics that still call themselves Catholic, but that's a topic for another day....God bless you!!!

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  98. I think it is important to point out Catholics are Catholics. There are two ways to leave the Church: you formally leave (there is a process) or the Church kicks you out. But you don't stop being a Catholic just because you are non-practicing. The Church laws still apply to you.

    Whether or not you are a Catholic in good standing is another question altogether.

    So all the non-practicing, lapsed, liberal, cafeteria Catholics are in fact Catholics.

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  99. ugagal, thanks!!

    StarFireKK, true! I always say that what makes a Catholic is….baptism. Even if a Catholic should wind up in hell, they are still marked wit the sign of Christ, for all eternity. They had squandered the grace, of course, but still Catholic by virtue of their Baptism in the Church.

    "Whether or not you are a Catholic in good standing is another question altogether."

    True. In the ooooold days, one had a sense if one was a "good Catholic" (i.e., followed the teachings and practiced the faith) or a "bad Catholic" (basically did what they pleased), but they were still Catholic.

    I am not totally sure about the Church being able to "kick someone out" of Catholicism. I think excommunication is what you mean, but that only means that they are not able to receive the Sacraments. And even then, there is a remedy. Unless you have more information, and I am happy to be educated on that! I definitely am not an expert. :)

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  100. I'm just now reading all these comments. Very interesting. Too late to comment?
    I was a bad Catholic, I guess you'd say, up until a couple of years ago. I had one foot in the protestant churches and one foot in the Catholic church, the Church of my youth. I think it was due to horrible, horrible education growing up. I certainly didn't get educated in CCD. My mom didn't teach me much - I think she assumed I was getting it at CCD as she did as a child. In my 20's I was hungering and thirsting for information on how to live my life. I seemed to find that in the protestant books, etc and very little (none actually) at Mass on Sundays. I married my husband years later and told him he was a Catholic snob! I did! I didn't understand why I couldn't get helpful information from protestants too. Then I think what happened was, after a difficult time in my life, the Blessed Mother got hold of me! I started to see that reading and listening to Protestants - getting to heaven was a piece of cake. Reading books by the Saints or other Catholic books (such as the Final 4 Things -or whatever it's called) - not at all a piece of cake! I got rid of all my Protestant books - every one. I only read or listen to Catholic information now because now I get it! And Mary has me going to confession monthly. I never did that before. So, there is hope for the "bad Catholics" still in our churches. But I truly hate to hear that some of them are priests, CCD and RCIA instructors. Have mercy.

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  101. Michelle, great points and no, it's never too late to comment! Love your story!

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  102. Actually, the Catholic church was founded by men, as well. The only written record man has from God is the Bible, where you read about Christ's earthly ministry, teaching, life, death and resurrection. Many, many teachings and practices of the Catholic Church are found nowhere in Scripture. And if it's not found in Scripture, then it's man made. The only true "religion" is the one that is founded entirely upon the teaching and preaching of God's Word. Denomination and opinion don't matter at all - only God's Word matters.

    aclark, where did the New Testament come from (how did it get in your hands)? Also, which men founded the Catholic Church in your opinion? And, why do you suppose that the Bible says that the church is the "pillar and foundation of truth"?

    And, you agree that Jesus Christ is the Word of God, correct? The Bible is the written Word, but Jesus Christ is the Word, wouldn't you agree?

    Thanks!

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  103. The only true "religion" is the one that is founded entirely upon the teaching and preaching of God's Word.

    By the way, I agree. The teaching and preaching (written and oral, as St. Paul said, 2 Thess 2:15)) are the traditions we are to follow. Jesus did not write a single word of Scripture with his Incarnate hand. Nor did the majority of the Apostles. They were told to "preach" the Gospel to the world, and they did, just as the successors to the Apostles do to this day. Thank God the Church also gave us an inerrant written account of much of the teaching and preaching of our Lord and the Apostles, and thank God the Church that Christ founded discerned, preserved, copied and then canonized those sacred books of her Scripture. (This all happened many long centuries before Luther and the idea of sola scriptura were even thought of.)

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  104. aclark, I sincerely hope you're not a drive-by Protestant. I would love to see your response to Leila's questions and continue the conversation.

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  105. The term "fringe" is misapplied to Catholics, and its use reveals someone who does not understand the nature of the Church. We either believe what the Catholic Church teaches or we do not. We are Catholics or we are not. If even a huge majority within the structure of the Church does not believe in her teachings, they do not the "mainstream" and believers the "fringe."

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