Saturday, September 25, 2010

Why does anyone care what the Catholic Church says?

We are Americans. We love our independence and our freedom, and we love to question (and sometimes reject) authority.

So, it seems odd to most Americans -- and dare I say, most American Catholics -- that anyone would submit to the authority of a Pope in Rome or a collection of bishops. But if you follow the logic, you'll see that it's not so crazy, from the Catholic point of view. Think about it:

If Jesus literally rose from the dead, then He is God, and I will submit to Him in all things.
If Jesus established a Church, then I will be a member of His Church.
If Jesus appointed leaders for His Church and delegated His teaching authority to those leaders, then I will submit to those leaders when they speak on matters of salvation, faith and morals.

Those are some big ifs, and I won't set about to prove any of them today. Obviously, many folks dispute one or all of them.

If any one of those ifs is untrue, then the Catholic Church is irrelevant and can be ignored.

But if they all are true, then we have just answered the question, "Why does anyone care what the Catholic Church says?"


  1. When I was five years old in Baptist Sunday School class, I understood that there is a difference between an apostle and a disciple. Why my teachers didn't see that, I will never know. I remember sitting in Baptist Sunday School as a five-year-old thinking, "Are they stupid or are they lying to me?" That's the honest truth. I cannot explain it still. It just "is". Anyway, suffice it to say, I knew that whether they were lying to me or just stupid, I knew the Church I was seeing in my Bible was not at all what they were saying it was. I looked all my life for that Church, using the logic you note above....and an adult, I found it and was baptized into the Catholic Church as an adult.

    God gave me the grace to understand as a five-year-old what most adults can't even seem to get their minds around. I'm so grateful.

  2. because the devil loves attacking truth!

  3. Leila, I want to point out that now, as a Catholic who has learned much more about the Catholic Faith than I did as a five-year-old attending Baptist Sunday School, in hindsight I see that they were not teaching us the "Gospel" (Good News) of Christ. What they were teaching us was that Catholicism is bad. For instance, I clearly recall their spending a great deal of time hammering into us "Enoch was the only person ever to be taken to heaven with his body." I recall thinking, "Okay, I get what you're saying. Can we talk about something else now???" Because they talked about it so much, I was wondering what the big deal about Enoch was to them, there are so many fascinating things in the Bible that they could have been teaching us besides spending a full day on Enoch. Of course, I see now, they spent so much time on Enoch because Catholics believe in the Assumption of Mary.

    In your story you say "I Was Robbed" because you the rainbows and unicorns "Gospel" was taught to you. I was robbed by the Baptists because I didn't get anything close to "Gospel". What I got was indoctrination in anti-Catholicism.

  4. I think many Catholics often need to be reminded of this! Can't wait until you do the post explaining how we get to this truth!

  5. Ted and I were just talking about this in reaction to the IVF debate post. I just can't understand why people want to make moral decisions for themselves on HUGE ethical and moral issues. There is no way your average couple could wrap their heads around the complex issues that results from IVF (unless they had degrees in biology and ethics maybe). With the Church, we DO have experts with degrees in biology and ethics! And they reseach things fully. And they pass the info along to the pope and bishops. And the Church makes an INFORMED and ENLIGHTENED decision about the complex issues of our day. Beautiful.

    Why wouldn't everyone want the FREEDOM the comes from submission to a divinely inspired higher authority?!!

  6. One of my biggest complaints (I guess) about Catholics in America is this whole problem with submission to authority. It's just so inconsistent...I mean, most of the same people who have a problem submitting to the authority of the church have not problem submitting to the authority of a Judge or Jury or Policeman or...

    Those three IFs make such sense to me and build up my faith, through the grace given me by God.

  7. So simple and yet so true. You made me stop today and think so very much,

    thank you!

  8. More perfectly-put-together words from you, Leila! I am so grateful I was led to this blog! :)

  9. Great thoughts Leila! And Kaitlin, one of the reasons I returned to the Catholic church was BECAUSE they do have highly educated and trained professionals who are 'experts' in their fields. Education & research have always been of relevance to Catholicism and I'm always astounded by the abundance of brilliant, intelligence that works FOR the church! Amen.

  10. Michelle....I was just wondering, really I think more just misunderstanding what you mean by the submission with authority and what is too inconsistent? ;)

  11. Sew, if I can speak for Michelle, I believe she means that Americans will submit to other authorities (police, judges, juries), but not to a religious authority. So, it's inconsistent on the part of most Americans.

  12. And Michelle was even narrowing it down more, saying it's true of most Catholic Americans. She is right. It's sad but true that most Catholics will submit to secular authorities more easily than they will to their own Church.

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  14. Oh I read it now! :) Yes, I agree! Big time!

    We have obvious proof of that! hahahaha

    Thanks for the clarification! ;)

  15. I am loving these informative posts Leila - keep them coming!

  16. Kaitlin, I couldn't agree more. A wise Catholic woman once commented that she could never trust herself to accomplish her own salvation. And yet that IS modern America "do-it-yourselfers". Besides the big problem Americans have with disobedience, we also have a bigger problem with overconfidence as well!

  17. Leila, our big foe now is pluralism. It is taught as "doctrine" (yeah, I know) by the Interfaith Alliance, et al, and is radically impacting religion in America, but most painfully (for me) average Catholics in the pews. People generally seek absolute truth but want to avoid the pains of disagreement, hence pluralism has stepped in as the painless alternative to disagreement. Pluralism denies the notion that there can be absolute contradiction.

    For example, if I say "A is B" and you say "A is not B", a pluralist would claim that both statements can be true at the same time. In other words, there is no such thing as absolute truth. The problem is that if you don't accept pluralism as an absolute truth, you're deemed to be ignorant.

    Unfortunately, some bishops don't seem to have a problem making alliances with pluralists.

    Pluralism is a huge problem in our public discourse today.

  18. Very well said. I am so tired of people saying, "Well, I'm a good person!" People expect God to lower Himself to our standards...

  19. I definitely believe in the first IF you wrote about. Maybe even the second IF. Leila, I would love it if you could explain sometime why Catholics believe that the Church has authority from God to give new revelation and speak for God on moral issues. By the way, this is not a Catholic bash...I'm truly interested. I am an evangelical Christian - that is, I am a follower of Jesus. To this day, I have NEVER met a Catholic (in person, anyway) that seems to take their faith seriously. The ones I have known have all been barely attending church, engaging in sex outside of marriage, and using birth control. One that I know even had an abortion. So I have long assumed that the "proof is in the pudding," as in, if a person's faith can't transform their life, then why should I think there is any truth found there? (Hear me out - this is not a Catholic bash. I'm being honest). Anyway, to stumble upon your blog, Leila, (which I did because of the great IVF debate) was quite an eye opener for me because I have quite seriously never met any Catholics who are not extremely confused morally, or who treat their faith as anything more than some hollow traditions to follow occasionally. I do NOT want this next comment to open up any more IVF debate, but I have a lot of respect for Catholics out there who are struggling with infertility, are told they need IVF, yet won't do it because they believe it would be immoral. Those are some strong convictions! Leila, you're teaching a lot of truth on your blog, and while I don't agree with everything (because I don't believe in the authority of the Catholic Church to speak for God), I will keep reading.

  20. Ladonna! You are wonderful! Welcome to the Bubble!

    I agree with everything you say and observe about most American Catholics. We are generally a pathetic, ignorant lot, faith-wise. Most Catholics don't even understand the basics of their Faith, and certainly are not "on fire" for Jesus Christ.... It is a tragedy! However, the tide is turning, and more and more Catholics are figuring out the treasure they have been given. I am one of them (read my reversion story, and read the bloggers' faith stories, up at the top of my blog). It really is beautiful!

    I will definitely write posts answering your excellent questions. Please stay tuned!

    (I am so glad the big IVF debate is over (that was draining!), but I am so glad it brought you and others here.

    Again, welcome! :)

  21. Great explanation! I think what gets to me is when people claim the CC is irrelevant but then devote so much time trying to argue with CC teachings etc. If the CC is irrelevant then.. why not just ignore it? I once had a friend claim it had "so much power" and that's why they needed to fight it. Really? Have they been to an American Catholic Church? Lol. As Catholics we are always free to walk away and disagree. Some just choose not to.

  22. LaDonna, if you don't mind, I'd like to address this portion of your statement:
    "To this day, I have NEVER met a Catholic (in person, anyway) that seems to take their faith seriously. The ones I have known have all been barely attending church, engaging in sex outside of marriage, and using birth control. One that I know even had an abortion. So I have long assumed that the "proof is in the pudding," as in, if a person's faith can't transform their life, then why should I think there is any truth found there? (Hear me out - this is not a Catholic bash."

    Admittedly, there are MANY disobedient and luke warm "cafeteria" Catholics that accept teachings they like, and reject those they don't. That, in and of itself does not in any way discredit the validity of the Church. It only speaks to the worldly ways that have affected the modern mindset of Americans. I'd also like to note that I have known many an errant evangelical Christian. One of our very best friends (a Church Father) had a highly public affair a few years ago that just about broke all of our hearts! He still claims that he is "saved" even though he has a "character flaw for good-looking women." I don't think it fair or accurate to imply that one group of Christians is more "proof" of Truth than another. 'Just my two cents...or less;)

  23. Hi Ladonna!

    I'm so sad (but not surprised) that you have never met a REAL Catholic. I completely understand how you would come to that conclusion-it's a good reminder to me to have more patience with those that aren't fans of the Church.

    When I moved to the South I was floored when people told me I was the FIRST Catholic they ever met! Talk about pressure to be a good one!

    You'll find a lot of real Catholics in the readers of Leila's blog-I hope they change your heart a bit from the effect all the "bad" ones have had.

  24. Great post, Leila! Love the simplicity and logic of it.

    Hi LaDonna! SO glad you're here! Don't worry- your complaint of meeting "who cares" Catholics (my words- not yours) is one of my sorrows as well. We're doing our best to let our lights shine :) and let that fire spread!

    Peter Kreeft writes in Jesus Shock (fabulous book- Leila!) that if Jesus is for real- than how can ANY of us be even REMOTELY the same? Why aren't we walking around completely shocked by the awesomeness, glory and hugeness of it all? How can be anything less than shocked, humbled, and on-fire by the gifts our Savior gives us and the character of WHO HE IS? It's simply amazing that we can go through the motions of prayer, reading Scripture and worshiping the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY!!!

    So to add to Danya's point- it's not just a Catholic thing. It's a Christian thing. (Perhaps even broader than that!)

    I'll let Leila dig into the authenticity of the Church, but wanted to add my two cents before my NEWBORN wakes up!!! Praise God for having a NEWBORN!!!! :)

  25. Because deep down inside nobody wants to believe they are just a random worthless evolutionary accident. We all sense the truth that the human being is created in the image of God...but, the culture has done a pretty good job of brainwashing us otherwise. We know that LOVE defies this, however. We have a hunch that we are loved and can not explain why we love others. People know the Church is right when it comes to its teaching about the dignity of the human person...but as we all know God does not force or coerce. We have freewill to choose. And, for some, the choice of seeing God and His Church will have be made at the final the distractions of the world are so many.

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  27. Ladonna,

    I am sorry you have met so many Catholics that are a bad witness. We are a church full of sinners and with such large numbers (over 1 billion) you're bound to meet quite a few bad examples along the way. It's unfortunate but true. :(

    I am sure Leila will write a post that explains the authority of the Church but I did want to clarify one thing. Catholics do not believe that the Church has authority from God to give NEW revelation. There is no new [public] revelation, all revelation ended with the death of the last apostle. What we DO believe is that revelation is complete but that it has not been made completely explicit and that we come to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries through the teaching of the Church. I don't mean to pick apart what you wrote and I realize it was probably just the way you worded it but it's an important distinction to make because it IS something we get "accused" of quite often as Catholics.
    God bless you!

  28. Michele, thank you for that very important clarification!

    This link might also interest Ladonna:

  29. Leila,

    I want to share my story with you! I was raised in a large Catholic family and there were 8 of us kids. We went to Mass on Sundays and I went to Catholic school. I was one of those students who was more interested in socializing in school than learning...and I learned NOTHING about the Catholic faith! When I met a wonderful and deeply faithful man at my job 5 years ago, he began to talk to me about Christ and how God meant the world to him. I was intrigued and went home and told my husband that I was going to go to church with Randy because he was just ON FIRE for the Lord! My husband, being a Catholic who actually DID listen in on those lessons about the Reformation when he was a kid, told me not to TOUCH our faith...(my husband NEVER stood up to me in those days...we were not practicing our faith and our marriage was a DUMPSTER FIRE!!!) I did not look for a Catholic to marry, my husband just happened to be a Catholic by chance (IN THE BIBLE BELT, hehe) and we had gotten married in the Church bc we had a destination wedding and there was a cute little Catholic Church by the bay. (IS GOD's GRACE NOT AMAZING, LOOKING BACK???)

    Anyway, I did not even realize how naive I was about the Faith and I was willing to throw out all the sacraments and go to a non-denominational church bc I literally could not see the difference.

    When my husband stood up to me, we started to go to Mass again, and I began studying about EVERYTHING having to do with the Church, the Reformation, once saved always saved, the EUCHARIST <3, solo scriptura, faith alone, you NAME IT. We had a bible study in our home for 3 years with the Fundamentalist, Randy, and we DEBATED.

    I am now going through RCIA to be confirmed bc I moved 3 times in high school across the country all 3 times and missed my confirmation, and I want to sponsor new people coming into our beautiful and deep faith known as Catholicism.

    I guess my point is that I am not unique! If I had not met this Protestant man who tried to CONVERT me without my knowledge, I never would have fallen in love with Jesus and His Church. We are not doing a good enough job educating our children!!!
    (To this day, my wonderful and dear friend Randy is certain I have been duped into an idolatrous love affair with a pagan church :(...but I pray for him often. He would make a GREAT Catholic!
    A (Amanda) :)

  30. Amanda, wow! That is a fantastic story! I love how God works! Seriously, that is one of the most beautiful renewals I have ever read! Praying for Randy. ;)


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