Friday, September 9, 2011

Protestants: It's time to come back

To my Protestant brothers and sisters:

It's time to come back to Mother Church. We want you, we need you, we love you.

I've spent a lot of time in dialogue with activist atheists recently, and the direction we are going is not pretty. We are witnessing a rapid cultural decline into amorality.

Satan seeks the ruin of souls through the destruction of marriage and family, and the quickest route to his goal is the profanation of sex. The truth and meaning of human sexuality is our era's cultural fault line, and unfortunately, Protestant denominations have been tumbling into its widening crevace at an alarming pace.

The first cracks denying the sacred nature of human sexuality began mere decades ago with the first tentative acceptance of contraception by a Christian church (the Anglicans). After 1,900+ years of unbroken Christian teaching on the immorality of contraception (including 400+ years of unbroken Protestant teaching), a moral evil was suddenly declared good. The entirety of Protestantism, although horrified at first, soon followed suit.

"Woe to those who call evil good" -- Isaiah 5:20

Then came other issues -- sterilization, masturbation, abortion, fornication and cohabiting, homosexual activity and homosexual "marriage". One by one, Protestant communities have broken from Christian teaching and sided with the secular culture. Many Protestant communities do not accept all the aforementioned evils as good, of course, and some are making a valiant attempt to fight one or more of them. However, there is no guarantee that those denominations won't eventually accept other sexual sins in the same way they accepted contraception, sterilization and masturbation. A majority vote by church leaders could launch an unsuspecting Protestant from the Spirit of the Gospel right into the spirit of the age -- the Planned Parenthood age.

Look where you are standing. Unless you stand with the Catholic Church, you may already have one foot off the cliff.

How to guarantee that you'll stand firmly on the ground of moral Truth? Come back home to the Catholic Church.

For over two thousand years:

The Catholic Church has never taught that contraception is a moral good, and she never will.
The Catholic Church has never taught that sterilization is a moral good, and she never will.
The Catholic Church has never taught that masturbation is a moral good, and she never will.
The Catholic Church has never taught that abortion is a moral good, and she never will.
The Catholic Church has never taught that fornication is a moral good, and she never will.
The Catholic Church has never taught that homosexual activity is a moral good, and she never will.

The moral teachings of the Church have never changed, and they never will.

Human sexuality is transcendent, life-giving and sacred, and the Catholic Church will teach that Truth till the last day.

Dear Protestant, a church with a changing morality is a church built on shifting sand. If you want to build your life and eternity on something solid, build it on the Rock of Peter. Don't be carried about by every wind of social change; come back to the Catholic Church and stand strong with us -- one united Body as Jesus intended.

America may not survive many more generations at the rate we are going, but the Church and her teachings will stand regardless, speaking the same Truths, undisturbed, till the end of time. Believe me, it's a really nice place to be in a storm. Extremely peaceful.

So, come on. You'll like it here, living in peace and joy and certainty. It's your rightful home anyway.

Come back to Holy Mother Church. It really is time.



  1. I'm "Back Home", and I can say that YOU have been one of the leading forces in bringing the truth back to me & I love that you took the time in calls and emails to help me 'rediscover' the Catholic Church! You are amazing!

  2. I am a christian Mutt now going through the RCIA program this fall. This reasons in this post are the reasons we are coming to the Catholic Church. Whenever we moved we had to find a church that stood firm in biblical foundation, and it was very weary to try and figure it out. Next time we move we can join a catholic church and know exactly where she stands.

    Have you looked at Catholic Alpha program/bible study? Google it, I think this will be the way to draw protestants and Catholics who left the church back to the Catholic church. You can't rely on the Catholic people unfortunately, bc as I am finding many don't know anything about their faith, they forget after they are confirmed. It's very disappointing.

  3. Yay for Ashley and the Bartleys! That's awesome. I stand with Leila in saying that we want you back, and we need you back. Please come home!

  4. Bartley, the sad truth is, many Catholics didn't understand the Church even at the time they were confirmed.

    The good news is, it seems like a springtime for the Church. Catholics are learning their faith, learning what the Church stands for, and what we truly believe as opposed to what many others THINK we believe.

    For me personally, the more I learn, the more I dig, and the more I read, I am more comforted by the fact that truth makes perfect sense and comes together so beautifully!

  5. being moral doesn't mean being Christian. I am not against morality, I am against worshipping Mother Mary and other man-made traditions. Go back to the five solas of reformation (no, it wasn't a new invention at the time of reformation, it was going back to Scriptures - see, I can tell what your argument is going to be), accept the Bible as your only authority, and people WILL come back.
    PS. I will probably not be able to follow up on the comments generated by this, not in the next few days anyway, but couldn't resist posting since you issued a general 'come back to Mother Church' invitation ;)

  6. I am not Lutheran, but this is good:

  7. Olya,
    I know you probably won't get back to this for a while, but in case anyone else wants to bring up the sola argument, I'd hasten to ask: Which Scripture? On what do you base your faith in Scripture? Authenticity? Inspiration by the Holy Spirit? How can you tell which Scriptures fit these criteria?

    The problem with a sola scriptura approach is that it neglects the process by which scriptures came to be acknowledged and canonized... all of which was carried out through centuries of faithful adherence by members of the Church. In many parts of the ancient world, the Protoevangelium of James (talk about a REALLY Mary-centric text!) was deemed canonical, only to be rejected later on. By whom? The magisterial power of the Church. Tradition shaped the Scriptures. Why shouldn't it still shape our faith today?

    1. The holy spirit shaped the scriptures, using man as a tool to determine which would be included in the holy Bible. Your answer is typical Catholic. non answer which attempts to excuse the Catholic Church's reliance on the 'tradition of the church' over the holy word of God. No thank you.

    2. Unknown, If God used man "as a tool" to determine what would be included in the Holy Bible, did He give those men actual authority? If so, what kind of authority? And how did the faithful know who had the authority? Thanks!

  8. Olya, i am Catholic and our religion does not worship Mary. Perhaps you were referring to another church?
    Leila, that is a beauriful and warm invitation. As the bishops begin synod plans to discuss the New Evangelization, this call should be on all our lips.
    Likewise, we should re-call our Catholic family to recognize these truths always held firm in our faith, and for us Catholics to have a renewed sense of belief and courage to accept and share the Truth of the human person.

  9. Olya, you didn't address the falling away from Christian moral teachings of the Protestant churches.

    As for Mary, simply go back to what your own Reformers thought about her, and then you are right back in our camp! They believed what we do about Mary, even while they adhered to sola scriptura.

    As to the idea that the early Christians believe in the two pillars (sola scriptura and sola fide)... nonsense. There is no evidence of it, and plenty to the contrary. Legions of Protestants have come to the Catholic Church after undergoing a study of the writings and practice of the early Church.

    (PS: Sola scriptura and sola fide are not found in the Bible. In fact, they are refuted explicitly. Thankfully we do agree with the "sola" that we are saved by God's grace alone.)

    Bartley's, welcome home! Ashley, aw shucks! :)

    And Christina, great points and questions!

    1. If you believe in Sola Gratia, then you must believe in Sola Fide, b/c what is grace if not a salvation through faith and not works. This is the entire backbone of the reformation. You cannot have one without the other.

    2. Lillian, but the Bible says that we are justified by our works and not by faith alone (James is explicit, no matter how people, including Luther who hated that book, wish it were otherwise). So, "faith alone" cannot possibly be Biblical. Works and faith, both of which are only possible through God's grace, now that is biblical! There is not a good work we can do without God's grace. But works are still works and they are necessary in our salvation. You can't reduce it down to an either/or. It's a both/and.

  10. Christine, great comment, and I so agree!

    It's funny, I have encountered so many Protestants who refuse to hear what we believe. They insist, despite the Catholic Church teaching that it is a moral sin to worship Mary, that we Catholics worship Mary! What can one do with that? Not much.

  11. Regarding the insistence by some Protestants that we Catholics worship Mary...

    I wrote something on that over a year ago (in reference to Olya, even back then)which addressed this as a huge pet peeve of mine:

    It troubles me when people misrepresent the Catholic Faith after they have been informed that they are wrong about Catholic teaching. I mean, if I tell you (and even show you) that my home is painted blue, and yet you continue to tell me that my home is painted yellow, then we can't even talk about house paint can we? I get it that you may not like blue, but that still won't make my house yellow!

    Please stop telling us we worship Mary when 1) you don't even understand how Catholics worship and why it's more than "singing and praising and praying" and 2) we believe worship of a creature is worthy of hell, and Mary is a creature!

    I won't tell you what Protestants believe, and you don't tell Catholics what we believe. K? K.

  12. Olya, time and time again we've hashed these issues out in the combox, and every time (in my experience) you simply walk away from the discussion. Then you often show up again repeating the same tired Protestant talking points.

    Ditto Leila's post at 8:29am. If you're going to disagree with what Catholics believe, then first find out what we ACTUALLY believe instead of what you THINK we believe.

  13. I'm excited for Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism to come out soon - I think that that is something we can show to Protestants to demonstrate the absolute beauty of our Church!

  14. Olya, I once offered to purchase "Catholicism for Dummies" for a commenter here. It's an excellent primer on the Catholic faith, co-written by a holy and orthodox priest. I am extending the same offer to you. If you have an Amazon wish list, add it to your list and send me the URL, and I will purchase it for you.

    Also, if you are at all comfortable e-mailing me your snail mail address, I would love to send you my CD set of Jimmy Swaggart Made Me Catholic by Tim Staples.

  15. Amen, amen, amen Leila! I have found great peace and love back home here with our Mother Church. I do not worship Mary, but find in her an example of womanhood that I was never given growing up Protestant. I now have embraced my free will and actively work on cultivating virtue, instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit to act through me. I no longer lie awake at night wondering if this or that sin means that I am predestined to Hell.

    I understand now what the Bible means when it says that God loves me. And it was only the Catholic Church that taught me that truth.

    Also, sola scriptura is not even in the Bible! I find that tenant of Protestantism so ludicrous. How can you claim that you believe only what is in the Bible to be true when that belief is never even espoused in the Bible, and is in fact explicitly refuted? The whole Protestant system collapses inward on itself when you truly begin to question it.

    I would add, don't be afraid! Don't tremble when you see statues and people on their knees and images of Popes. We're worshipping God, the way He should be worshipped. The way He asked us to worship Him. The list of those who explored Catholicism in order to refute it and were converted by the Truth they saw is so long. Just one Mass was all it took for me. Newman, Chesterton, Scott Hahn...oh, the list just goes on.

    Great post, Leila!

  16. I have to totally agree.
    You know, I recently read a post on the 'Why I am Catholic' blog about a person that went to Mass and was so impressed by all the scripture they were surrounded by in the Mass, by the sense of a Catholic community, all joined in one belief, kneeing before God.
    maybe we need to start inviting some of our non-Catholic friends to a fine, orthodox Mass.

  17. speaking of which (in response to Caite's post above) what are the characteristics of an "orthodox" mass? I attended a mass service and have mostly finished writing up the experience but wonder now if it was orthodox? I think it was.....

  18. Miss G, generally an "orthodox" Mass is one that follows the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).

    However, it's also possible for a priest to say the Mass according to the GIRM but in a very flat and monotonous fashion, which, while technically correct, is not an attitude becoming to the worship of God. Kind of like reading Shakespeare without any emphasis, you know? Even if you pronounce all the words right, something is lacking if you don't attempt to add drama.

    Ideally, every Mass would follow the GIRM *and* be said with an attitude of reverence and holiness. That would be my definition of an orthodox mass.

  19. miss G, I hope someone gets back to you soon on that question. I know what an orthodox Mass is, but I honestly don't know how to put it simply into words. Though I've been Catholic all my life, I'm rediscovering a lot of my faith and starting to relearn a lot of what I have misunderstood! So I'm anxious to hear what the others have to say.

    I also get a little irked when people insist that we worship Mary. I understand the confusion in seeing Catholics praying before a statue, but when explained as to what we are REALLY doing, they don't believe us.

    I gave this example to someone a while ago, don't know if it did any good. One time, a statue of Mary broke and of course, I was sad. But it was a statue. I didn't believe that this was my god. The statue represented an image of Mary that helps me to focus when I pray.

    Isn't it easier to look at someone when we talk? Don't we get a little irked when we don't have eye contact? Having pictures and statues are simply a means to help us concentrate on our prayers. We don't NEED the statues to pray. It's just something to focus on.

    And when I pray to Mary, I pray to my Mother. Because when Jesus died on the cross, He gave us His Mother. "Woman, behold your son." She became a Mother not just to St.John but to all of us.

    I am 36 years old and still go to my mom for complaints, questions and comfort. As long as she's on this earth, she will always be my mother. So it's only natural for us to go to the Heavenly Mother that God has given to us for help, and being a Mother, who has a greater love for us than all earthly mothers combined, she goes to her Son to intercede for us.

    For anyone who wants to criticism, I would ask to respect our faith and keep their comments to themselves. For anyone who wants answers, try some "Mary books". The Imitation of Mary, Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother are some good ones as well as any Catechism books.

  20. Sorry, JoAnna, you and I must have been posting our comments at the same time!

  21. Miss G, I agree with JoAnna's comment, and I look forward to your reflections! Did you attend a Sunday mass or are you talking about the daily mass you went to?

    Interestingly, at the beginning of our new (liturgical) Church year (Advent, this November), the Church will be implementing a new Missal, with more accurate Latin translations. It's going to be wonderful, although many Catholics will likely be confused. Watch this space for more on that soon.

    Becky, exactly! I have been diving into the beauty of Mary, Our Mother, lately for a couple of reasons. The depth of her beauty and goodness, and the fact that she always points us to her Divine Son, and that He loves her so much, has really overwhelmed me lately. It affects the way I see everything, including Heaven, and the love of God and my own motherhood.

  22. Is it okay if I say this gave me a....never mind. Thanks, Leila!!! *MWAH*!!! Great piece! Love you!

  23. This makes me want to cry. I come from a family of "Bible" Christians that hold fast to the misconceptions of the Church because they don't bother to read up on our beliefs themselves. The unchanging teachings are what bring people home, because in a crazy world, Jesus calls to them, and the only thing that has held fast against the evils of the world is our Mother Church. It's why I joined, and my best friend joined because of college studies that pointed her straight to the Church. It's all there, people.

    I recently heard on AirOne that Christians need to reflect upon why churches weren't bringing in atheists and other non believers. How that in Jesus' time, even non believers were drawn to him, and that's what the church is called to do. That obviously churches weren't doing something right because people weren't drawn to them at all. I was confused by what they were saying, because The Catholic Church DOES do that.

    You can see it right here on your blog. People come from far and wide just to argue with you. Why? Because there is something there that threatens them. There is something there that calls to them. It is the truth that calls, whether they believe it or not. It's still there and it's still calling. So, maybe the protestant and "bible" churches aren't seeing a lot of atheists and others drawn to them, but WE are.

  24. Oh, this is my fav quote when the prots try to insist we worship Mary:

    "She is not the sun, dazzling our weak sight by the brightness of its rays. Rather, she is fair and gentle as the moon, which receives its light from the sun and softens it and adapts it to our limited perception." - St. Louis De Montfort

  25. That's a great quote, Kara! Pope Benedict XVI said something similar in his encyclical Spe Salvi, and it gave me the inspiration for the title of my blog:

    Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope.

    Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way.

    Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us? With her “yes” she opened the door of our world to God himself; she became the living Ark of the Covenant, in whom God took flesh, became one of us, and pitched his tent among us (cf. Jn 1:14).

  26. whew! thanks for the clarification there JoAnna. It looks like I did indeed attend orthodox Mass as I suspected.

  27. Every time I hear a protestant say "Catholics worship Mary ect..." I want to SCREAM. It's so cliche and it's just plain FALSE. I recently had to correct a non-Catholic friend on this. So then she thought that we used to worship Mary. We've NEVER worshiped Mary. Show me where in history of the Catholic Church that there was ever a doctrine calling Mary some kind of God. SHOW ME protestant brothers and sisters. We worship God alone and Mary ALWAYS points us to her son. I recently heard that you can't know Mary without knowing Jesus. So if you refuse to learn about Mary and why she plays such an important role in salvation history then you're not really knowing who Jesus is.
    It breaks my heart that our protestant brothers and sisters could be so much closer to Jesus, more than they've ever imagined.
    Set aside your pride and learn what Catholicism really is from the Church herself.
    Leila, you've totally expressed my sentiments.

  28. Come home, brothers and sisters. We need you and Christ is waiting to feed you on his very body, blood, soul, and divinity.

  29. Sorry, one more thought--

    Don't confuse what you may think of as "worship" as what is actually veneration.
    Just as we also venerate and honor those who have died with putting pictures up and (for the rich and famous) even statues, and sing the praises of their lives, so we also do with the saints and Mary.

    We honor and venerate the saints because we remember their example of love of God as something to imitate and be inspired by; so we also do and should do even more so with Mary. She, being the Mother of God, is supposed to be the most venerated of all.

    "Honor thy Father and thy Mother."

  30. Building on the Mary thoughts - Yes, Mary takes our prayers to her Son. Whatever she brings him, he will say yes, as far as it pertains to what's good for our salvation and purification.

    As someone once told me, "What good jewish boy would say no to his mom?"

  31. Joanna, i may be misunderstanding your explanation of the rites at Mass, but I'm sure you agree that even if a priest does NOT "attempt to add drama" to the prayers of the liturgy, the validity and sanctity of the Mass, and the presence of the Triune God, are in no way questionable.

  32. Christine,

    The "drama" part was only relevant to the Shakespeare portion of the analogy. As I said - ideally, every Mass would follow the GIRM *and* be said with an attitude of reverence and holiness. That would be my definition of an orthodox mass.

    When the priest rushes through the Mass in a dry monotone, it doesn't invalidate the Mass, and it may be technically correct according to the GIRM, but that kind of presentation doesn't help one appreciate the beauty of the Mass, either.

  33. Wonderful post!
    Leila; I will look for your thoughts on the new missal. One of my worries is that to lapsed Catholics we are trying to reach out to it will feel like "Come home, oh btw your bedroom is now the sewing room."

  34. Joy, I hadn't thought about that. I wonder if it depends on who the lapsed Catholic is and why they became lapsed.

    So, if a person left because of (or in part because of) all the goofy, 1970s crap that the hippies threw into the liturgy, this might help ground them back in the richness and beauty of the language.

    For most of my generation (Gen X) who have left, though, I don't actually think they had any great love for the liturgy to begin with. I could've cared less, truly, for all I knew or understood.

    I hope that those who do come back, they will think, "Hey, you've replaced the orange shag carpet and felt banners in my bedroom with linen and lace, hardwood floors and gleaming gold." Not a bad thing to return to! :)

  35. For the die hards, I should have said, "I couldn't have cared less". ;)

  36. Kara said, "You can see it right here on your blog. People come from far and wide just to argue with you. Why? Because there is something there that threatens them. There is something there that calls to them. It is the truth that calls, whether they believe it or not. "

    Well, some people come to flesh out ideas, and try to figure out where they stand on certain points. (I am a Christian and former Catholic who has issue with several points of Catholic doctrine, and it is nice to be able to discuss it with people who are willing and able to do so.)

  37. Mary! So nice to put a face to the name! Your kids are as cute as you are. You really should have more. ;)

  38. Like your sentiment, but as you posted above there is comfort in constancy.
    Thanks again.

  39. @Mary, I'm sorry I can't explain fully what I meant to say, but my brain is mush from the heat of Phx and my 4 kids ;)

    What I meant is that people are drawn to a Christ-like presence. This site is very holy in that it is a great place for discussion. It calls to people, just like, I think, the Church as a whole calls to people. Protestant churches aren't seeing a huge influx of people joining, but we are. There's a reason for that.

    Blessings on your journey. I'd like to keep up with you and find out what doctrine you have issue with. I am very interested in seeing where the discussions lead you. I know that when I was converting I had issues with certain doctrines, but the more I researched and prayed on it, it all became clear.

  40. Miss G, JoAnna did a great job of explaining what an "orthodox" Mass is. I'll try to add to her explanation with some examples.

    The Sunday Mass to which I referred in a previous post as not being "orthodox" was a legitimate Mass according to GIRM. However, it was rushed (barely a half hour), the homily was awful (about 5 minutes of the priest saying that people need to be thankful for what they have; there was no tie-in to the Gospel reading and it was little more than a secular, impromptu speech), and he cut off the vocalist and organist twice, if I recall correctly, once, saying, "No, we'll skip that part" after the vocalist started singing the second stanza of a hymn. It was rude and awkward and diminished the reverence that should have been present.

    My parish priest shows enormous reverence, and gives lengthy homilies that not only address the Gospel reading but also Church standing on various issues, as unpopular as that standing might be among the less-than-devout, even when it comes to voting. There is definitely a solemnity with the way in which he conducts the Mass. His column in the Sunday bulletin regularly addresses Church doctrine, too. (He does catch flak for doing so, whether from the pulpit or the bulletin, from the less-than-devout, but he continues to do his job, and that is present Church teaching.)

    Hope all that makes sense.

  41. What a wonderful post, as usual. You have been a mainstay in first my process of becoming Catholic and now on my own journey. I have posted this particular blog on my Facebook page because so many of my Christian friends have become extremely liberal in their thinking which is hurting the Church, as you've so eloquently said here! Thank you, Leila!

  42. I came home years ago and am happy to say that my children have grown up in the Catholic Church and truly love their "Holy Mother Church". I'm so blessed by that - and by you, Leila. Thanks :)

  43. I'm not sure where that information came from that christians don't draw in atheists...The churches in our city are booming with new converts, yet the Catholic Churches keep shutting down.

    People think you worship Mary because when Catholics leave their church and come to a Protestant/Pentecostal church, that's what they tell us. I had so many preconceived notions about the Catholic Church from former Catholics that came to our bible studies. It was sad, most of them didn't even know you could pray to God all by yourself, you don't HAVE to pray to Mary only, and you don't need a priest to pray to God. And most of them never cracked open their bibles.

    Protestants maybe sola scripture, but Catholics seem to be "sola-whatever I think the Church tells me without every opening the bible" It's not what the Catholic church stands for, but it's what Catholics are taking away from it. If the Catholic church wants others to know what it stands for, then they need to educate their followers. Get some bible studies going. In the three catholic churches I visited in my city, there wasn't ONE bible/church study. Nothing. No wonder people are confused.

    My husband was raised Catholic, and he was shocked when he came to our Pentecostal churches because we actually read our bibles. He thought that was only for Sunday mass.....really sad. How can you know God when you don't read His book? He was never taught how to pray except the Rosary. Now the Rosary is all fine and everything, but it is not the only way one should pray. Neither did he know that you were supposed to meditate on the mysteries when doing the Rosaries- he just thought you were mindlessly chanting the same thing over and over. most fallen catholics think this too and that's prob why they fall away, there's no relationship with God, just mindless chanting. He was raised Catholic from birth, his mother was too, and his father went through RCIA.

    While Protestant churches are wavering on morals, Pentecostals are not. There is a difference. And Pentecostals have church authority and doctrine, they don't just say to people "everything you need to know is in scripture"

  44. Bartley's that is such an interesting comment and what interesting discussion can follow! I don't know if you read my reversion story, at the top of the page, but a lot of what you say resonates with me. I definitely was an ignorant Catholic drawn towards the Bible churches that weren't afraid of the Gospel (though I am pretty sure they accepted contraception/sterilization). They were filled with ex-Catholics who were never taught their faith well (I think those are the "converts that are going over, not necessarily the atheists? But I can't say there are no atheists going to them of course!)

    However, in my experience, I have never known any Catholic of my generation who was taught that they could only pray to Mary or that they couldn't pray straight to God, etc. I always heard that that is what the Bible churches' misconception of Catholics was, but I never heard that from any Catholic I've ever known growing up. I only knew one family who ever prayed the rosary at all, and I never once did when I was growing up. I barely knew the Hail Mary (only knew the first half) and I was one who considered herself "devout" (never missed mass growing up). Maybe the older generation falls into the category of what you describe? I'm guessing that is true. But my Generation X generation never even got that far, ha ha. We were taught "God is love!" and not much else, most definitely not much specifically "Catholic" in bent.

    To be continued….

  45. Okay, a couple more thoughts: I do believe that because of the intellectual patrimony of the Catholic Church, more atheists (and Protestant intellects (Francis Beckwith, Thomas Howard, Peter Kreeft, etc.) are attracted to the Church. It is hard for them to come to a more fundamentalist Protestant church because the emphasis is on faith, but not necessarily on reason. I have one friend (head of our catechetical program at my parish, husband is a deacon) who was a missionary in Guatemala as an evangelical for many years with her family. They were on fire, totally in love with Jesus. (We Catholics can learn so much from our evangelical brethren!) However, she has said many times that her upbringing was decidedly anti-intellectual. In fact, to dive too much into studies and education was frowned upon in her denomination. Faith was all you needed. For the atheist or the Protestant who wants to dive into the fullness of what Christ left us and what God can show us, that is a hard place to stay. They were drawn toward the Catholic Church (and still love the Lord with all their hearts… and now have the Eucharist!).

    I've said this a lot over the years: The evangelical churches are filled with ex-Catholics because they are on fire for love of the Lord, and they stand firm on so many moral issues that some dissenting priests and even bishops won't even talk about. I wanted to be part of that. But that is when I was an ignorant Catholic. Most (all?) of the Catholics who are filling the pews of evangelical churches are like me: They couldn't tell you Thing One about their Catholic Faith, because they never learned it. This is very different from the way the Protestants are coming to the Catholic Church: The evangelicals who come to the Catholic Church are not ignorant of their own Faith traditions, and in fact they love their communities. But they have learned, intellectually, that the Catholic Church is the one that Christ founded. It is not an easy transition, and in fact, they often dread and resist the conversion at first. But they know too much, and they cannot stay outside the Church any longer. Of course, then they fall madly in love and enrich the Church so much with their knowledge of Scripture and their gratitude for the Sacraments, the full truth, etc. The converts are AMAZING!!! Overall, I am just pointing out that there is a distinction in who is converting from one side to the other.

    To be continued….

  46. Last thought:

    You are right that Catholics don't crack open their Bibles nearly enough! This is sad, because of course the Bible is a Catholic book! We do get tons of Scripture every day and week in Mass, but since most people in the pews aren't paying much attention, that goes right over people's heads (again, read my reversion story, ha ha!).

    My friend Gayle Somers is a Bible teacher (she has worked with Scott Hahn, has nationally published Bible studies and also is the star of my "Gayle in the Bubble" features). She was an on fire evangelical for over 25 years. She has been Catholic for 16 years, and her biggest pet peeve is that there are not more and better Bible studies for Catholics (although there are some great ones out there!), esp. for teens and young adults. Well, just a few days ago on Facebook she posted a link to something she said is fantastic, and she has been waiting for it for 16 years! It's from the Augustine Institute, and it's a Bible study program for young adults that is apparently phenomenal. Here is the link, to YDisciple:

    Catholics should be diving in to Scripture and I hope this is a great place that young adults start!!

    Thanks for your great comment, Bartley's, and I look forward to your thoughts!

  47. Did my first two comments make sense??? I read it over…hmmm. I understood what I meant, but maybe no one else will….

  48. i disagree with atheists coming to Non-catholic churches. There are tons of churches in our city alone that are filled with people who had no faith in God and/OR who were addicted to drugs and homeless. Our pentecostal churches have programs for drug addicts. I don't find that in our Catholic churches here. Everyone I meet in our parish either grew up in the Catholic Church or married a Catholic. I think the Catholic Church could get a lot more atheists ( bc if the reasons you gave) if they had a bible study explaining their faith, different from the RCIA- where you are making a commitment to get to know the church.

    As for the intellectual part, I can't disagree more. Pentecostals are all about scripture, and you can get into some intense studies. It is not watered down or mainly based on faith. Sunday services consist of an hour long bible study..and that's before an hour of sunday school, and a two hour study on wednesday evenings. The reason I came to the Catholic church was what I found out online about the Catholic Church. I was given the RCIA book, and told not to worry if it was too complicated. They hesitated giving it to me early bc they didn't think I would understand it. I read it and there is nothing complicated about it at all and I find it a little watered down. I was expecting something more intense-more intellectual. I think it's a great starting point, but I hope it's not going to take them the whole year to go over this book. I think pentecostals that come to the catholic church are going to really push to get their questions answered bc they used to being challenged to study on their own instead of being spoon fed a 15 minute homily every week.

    I'll check out those bible studies.

    I like the Catholic Church bc they really think out every issue, there's a lot of thought and discernment put into every issue, like birth control and homosexuality. I respect that and that is the intellectual part of the Catholic Church I see, but I really have to seek that out bc it's not readily available at our local churches. Thank goodness for the internet.

  49. The ex Catholics filling Bible churches never learned the true teachings of the Church to begin with if they think we worship Mary, never read the Bible, and grew up just going through the motions. True Catholic teachings are big on the relationship with Christ, a reverence for Our Mother and a deep understanding of the Bible. If they truly understood and were taught properly of why we do the things we do, they would've likely never left. This is why you see reversions, because something calls them back.

    And, Catholic Churches are closing? Where? It's certainly not happening around here. My parish alone has at least 5 adults confirmed/baptized every year.

    I heard that on a basically Christian (not Catholic) radio station that Christians weren't drawing people in. And maybe I tend to keep myself inside a Catholic bubble here on the net, but I certainly don't see a large draw to Bible Christians or other protestant blogs like I do to the Catholic ones. People are converting and reverting at an increasing speed. Women are joining convents at a rapid speed.

    "There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be."
    — Fulton J. Sheen

  50. Kara- read my other posts before you go off and comment. I am going through the RCIA program this fall. And I already know that people who believe Catholics worship Mary etc are wrong. That was my point, Catholics are not educating their followers.

    And 5 people a year??!!! LOL!!! Please, Pentecostal churches baptize that many a month, and those people stay faithful, not just in name only. You are in a Catholic bubble. The Catholic Church is large, but that doesn't mean that everyone who is a registered Catholic is faithfully following the Church. In 2005 our diocese closed 17 churches.

  51. Pretty sure I wasn't rude to you. If I was I'm sorry. And if I misread your posts, I'm also sorry. Geez.

  52. I think we are talking a lot of apples to oranges here.

    Here is what I think you are saying, Bartley's:

    The Protestants study and take seriously the Bible more than the Catholics do.

    They attract a lot of ex-Catholics because they are "on fire" for Jesus.

    Catholic parishes (especially depending on the diocese) are feeding watered-down fluff to their converts and parishioners, even though many parishes and dioceses have (thankfully) gone to giving real meat and real teachings to their people (see my last post… yay!).

    I can agree with you on that stuff, Bartley's. I think my reversion story speaks to it, and also my friend Kim's story that links to it (she talks of the many intense Bible studies and doctrinal classes that she had when she decided to leave New Age and join a Bible church).

    Okay, so we can agree on that: Most Catholics in America are ignorant. Most never got the basics, many parishes still offer up fluff.

    To be continued….

  53. But here is where we are talking past each other. When I say that the intelligentsia (for lack of a better word!!) of the Protestant world are converting to Catholicism because of the patrimony of the Church, I mean that they are accessing the fullness of what the Church is. The things they learn by reading the Catechism, by reading the Papal encyclicals, by reading the Early Church Fathers, by reading journals of orthodox Catholic thought and understanding Scripture through the lens of Sacred Tradition where it belongs, etc. All the great, great stuff on the internet, too, yes! It is now easy for a curious person to find out the True Faith if he wants to, and not be stuck in a bad, watered-down RCIA class or get stuck in a parish with a dissenting priest (or bishop). So, more people are discovering authentic Catholicism, and they are doing so more easily, thank goodness. You have experienced that yourself, and it's a blessing!

    Protestants have one thing that they can appeal to and it is Sacred Scripture. So, they make the most of it! They dive in and dig deep and they make their lives and faith grounded in it as they understand it. But they are missing a ton of the things that could draw others (not just those already interesting in the Bible… many atheists are NOT interested, excepting people like you mentioned, who are having very difficult life issues and looking for God). For example, Protestantism cannot appeal to history (they almost all "ignore" the first 1500 years of Christendom, aside from very selected pieces from St. Augustine, etc.). They do not appeal to or believe in Sacred Tradition, they do not have any real ecclesiology, they don't have a moral theology to speak of, or a theology of suffering. They don't appeal to the ancient philosophers, they don't dive into the natural law (which even St. Paul does) with any regularity. They don't have a sacramental life, nor the example of thousands of holy saints, nor the sacred music (chant), architecture, etc. from 20 centuries of a lived faith. It's not that they are "less than" in their love of Christ, it's just that they are missing so much of the intellectual and historical (and logical), and sacramental, etc. life of the Church that it will not draw in the atheist intellects or other secular skeptics, those who think the Bible (and what evangelicals teach about it… some with six-day creation, etc.) is not worth a look (yet).

    I don't know if I am making sense? I hope you get what I'm saying. The Catholic Church is "bigger" and grounded in "more" than Protestantism, which is not under the guaranteed protection of the Holy Spirit for teaching all Truth.

    So, yes, the evangelicals are very serious about their Bible study. And the lax Catholic parishes are handing out fluff too often, still. But when the REAL truth of the Catholic Church is offered, it is a feast that is irresistible. It is the fullness of the Faith, the fullness of Christ's truth, and it's what Christ intended us to have. Not only the Bible (which Protestants take out of context, because they have rejected the Church), but everything else which is our rightful patrimony as well.

  54. As for converts, there is a lot of regional stuff in play. For example, the NE part of the nation is losing people (esp. the "blue" states… people moving out, and liberals statistically don't have a lot of children). That would explain a lot of parish closings, especially those churches which were in the cities, where Catholic families (immigrants) used to live and worship. They move to the suburban churches.

    Also, some dioceses are more liberal (as in even "dissenting") than others. The more liberal the diocese, the fewer people, the fewer vocations, the more parishes will close.

    In other areas, the Church is booming. We keep building churches in my diocese. And we have thousands of converts each Easter Vigil (these are people who go through a year-long instruction or more). We also have a ton of seminarians (my own parish has a steady stream of young men who enter the seminary… because our parish is orthodox and vibrant. We love the faith!). One year my parish alone had over a hundred converts at Easter Vigil. The Church is vibrant where the faith is vibrant.

  55. My RCIA class was like that. Watered down and fluffy. We called the parish "squishy" church and moved on soon after baptism. When I mentioned at least 5 that are confirmed/baptized every year I need to point Out that pie parish is fairly small and full of snow birds. That also doesn't include kids who are confirmed. I guess we're just lucky in this diocese. I think it's wonderful other than the select few "bad" ones.

  56. Kara- when you don't read what I wrote and just say the same thing that was already said in earlier comments, it's offensive. I took your comment as snarky, maybe that's bc this blog seems to have many snarky comments coming from the Catholics. Maybe I'm already on the defense from reading previous comments on other posts. You're ready to debate but not listen. I'm sorry if I took your comment as snarky, maybe it was words like, certainly.

    I was baptized methodist then my parents stopped taking me to church by age 6. Went to Catholic school from K-2, at 14 I started to attend a conservative ( not many out there now) Episcopal Church with a friend for 7 years, then a Apostolic Pentecostal church, then an Assemblies of God church, Free methodist, non denominational and now a Catholic church. I'm a mutt- I just went from place to place searching. Something I pray my kids will never have to do bc I will give them a firm foundation in their Catholic faith.

    With that said- the Catholic Church needs to figure out how to reach people- Catholics are not known to evangelize like Pentecostals- and then how to keep the people they do have. I hope they start asking people who drew away from the Catholic church why they left, and address the issues bc until that happens, you are going to see Mega Churches with 6 a week 2hr long services plus bible studies all over the place all while Catholic churches are having to combine churches bc lack of resources and lack of priests.

    And I don't know about Pentecostal blogs ( although many pastors have good blogs) vs Catholic blogs, but if what you say is true, it's bc Protestants/pentecostals don't need to seek out people all over the Country to find out about their's right there in their community.

  57. Bartley's you are absolutely right that the Church has to figure out how to reach people. But mostly the problem lies in the western world (the church in Asia and South America is booming). The western Catholics went nuts in the past 40 years (my reversion story, again, is very common), and we lost a lot of folks. But that is turning around, big time. This is one way we are reaching people:

    We do tend to get myopic and see that in "this corner" of this nation in this part of the big wide world, the Church looks anemic. But the big picture is actually quite bright (again, some dioceses have almost no vocations, some are bursting! Why? It's a great question to ask and answer.)

    Mass attendance and contributions are actually up among Catholics:

    Things may seem rosy with evangelical mega-churches, but I know enough ex-evangelicals who can tell you there are major problems with that model, too. They can fall apart just as soon as the very popular pastor leaves, disagrees with the elders, has a scandal, etc. And, people tend to go for the emotional high and the level of social activities, etc. that they get there. But that level can be hard to sustain! We are a fickle people, and we always want more, bigger, better. It's hard for the mega-churches to stay "relevant", and I think they have this discussion in evangelical circles as well.

    But ultimately, what will convert the world is faithfulness and zeal for Christ. Truth, Goodness, Beauty. Every heart is searching for it. The Church is the true home of every soul.

  58. Sorry, I wasn't meaning to be snarky. I truly don't see that in my diocese, but it's the only diocese I know, since I'm a convert too, and I haven't been here that long. I've been on the defensive ever since I converted also, and I church hopped and was a "mutt" as you say too. I guess I really didn't read or comprehend most of the thread all that well, then, sorry for that.

    I was merely trying to explain myself since you seemed to not understand what I was saying, but I guess I didn't do a good job of that either, so I guess I'm done.

  59. Oddly enough, I found the RCIA class I attended last year to be lacking a bit in substance, which was surprising considering how orthodox our priest is. I appreciate that the woman who has been running it for 10+ years and the volunteers who assist her give of their time because they do believe in and wish to pass on the faith. But structurally, something was missing; I've learned more through this blog and others than I did through the class. I'd love to sit in on another RCIA class outside of this area to compare notes between how the two were implemented.

    Between RCIA and RCIC, there were 25 individuals who received the sacraments at the Easter Vigil Mass, which, considering our small county, is pretty good. But I am curious to see how many of those individuals will still be actively practicing in 2-3 years' time.

  60. Girl from New York, that is so interesting. I think that in general, the RCIA program materials are WEAK. When I taught, I and my co-teacher made up our own curriculum! We started from the ground up and built a case for the Church. Then the hard sayings came later and they could see where it all fit in. It was an apologetics-based class. We had people who came from other "touchy-feely" RCIA classes in town, who wanted to give the Church one last chance. Some of those parishes were doing things like spreading pictures of Jesus on a table, some with him smiling, some with him stern, and asking, "Which Jesus do you like?" and other such subjective, nebulous nonsense. UGH! I haven't taught RCIA in at least ten years, so I am hopeful there is better stuff out there now? My priest at the time was not the most solid, but he let us do what we wanted. So, in that sense, we were blessed!

  61. I was thinking about Mary at Mass last Sunday. The parish I was attending (which is very orthodox, by the way Miss G! I can't explain with words how you can tell, but I can say that having gone to a Catholic parish that was more protestant than Catholic for 22 years, I definitely see a difference here. Also listen to the homily material - does the priest talk about the Real Presence, the Eucharist, Confession, Mary, i.e. Catholic doctrine?)....

    I just lost my train of thought. Anyway, the parish I was attending last week has a statue of Mary just to the left of the crucifix when you are facing the altar. I was praying the rosary and trying to focus on both Mary AND Jesus on the cross while doing so, but I couldn't keep both in focus. I realized that when I had Jesus completely in focus, I could see Mary in my peripheral vision, and vice versa. This is how I see our love for Mary - when we look to her, we automatically are able to look more closely to her son, Jesus.

  62. I live in the Atlanta archdiocese and every year we have over 2000 people come into the Catholic Church. It is a much bigger sacrifice to join the Catholic Church than it is to join a Protestant church, because they make sure you learn what you are asking for, and you have to give up your Sundays from September until Easter and devote that time to RCIA classes. Any people who have issues with divorces or marriages not validated in the Church have to get all of that stuff reconciled before they are confirmed.

  63. Manda, I used to live in Atlanta! I was a very lapsed Catholic back then….

    But a great segue into the topic I hope to cover soon, which is explaining the ins and outs of Catholic annulments!!

  64. you are on the titanic. jump now, before it is too late.

  65. I agree with what might draw atheists to the Catholic Church, but not the protestant (i am also an atheist, a loud one :P). I think although having faith is wonderful, it is not enough for me.

    I think that people making everything so based on the bible got me to a anti-religion place in my life (not an anti-religious people though, I still loved those of all faiths) I could see that there were so many interpretations, and did not know what to believe.

    I learned that it is not that it is not the religion that is changing it views, just some Catholics have started disagreeing with it.

    The actual beliefs (I think I am missing a word here... maybe doctrine?) of the Church can also be proved, and connected to reason. Something that atheists need.

  66. Nate, it's funny that you mention the Titanic. I remember a priest making a comparison like that as well. It goes like this: The Church is like the Ark, with the fullness of the faith inside. As we go across the ocean on our life journey, the Ark keeps us safe. Protestants and those of other faiths are swimming across the ocean next to the Ark, trying to get there on their own. You can do it that way, it's just more difficult.

    Another comparison I heard from a priest is this: The Catholic Church is like a box. Everything God gave us for our salvation is inside that box. Scripture,sacraments, tradition, Early Church Fathers, etc. Do Protestants have some of the items from the box? Sure. But the box properly belongs to the Church. She has kept it and guarded it all this time and will continue to do so until the end.

  67. Nathan, I'll take my chances. ;)

    (Are you an atheist, maybe from Stacy's blog?)

    Chelsea, that is a great perspective, and I hope one day you will think your way right into the arms of Jesus and His Church. :) It's been a honor to watch you learn and come to some good conclusions!

    Manda, that is good stuff! I need to remember that.

  68. Perfect, as usual. Great post Leila!

  69. Chelsea - I experienced a profound reversion a couple of years ago because I realized that my faith didn't have to be based on just belief - I also discovered the intellectual beauty and reason that can be found in the Church. As a chemist, I was shocked to discover that some of the world's greatest scientific finds have been theorized and discovered by devout Catholics (the Big Bang theory, for example!).

    Don't give up - I think that each of us have different paths to follow, but we are all called to the same end. Some of us follow a path that starts by exploring reason, and how it can be merged with faith, while others start out with a faith-based approach.

  70. I was listening to EWTN the other day when I heard the best explanation of why Mary holds such an important part in the Catholic faith (and should to all Christians). A priest who was answering callers' questions gave the following as the 2 biggest reasons:

    1) She helps us understand our faith - If you really meditate on what it must've been like to accept what was being asked of her, you can't help but marvel at her courage and trust in God.

    2) She helps us understand ourselves - The passage in Revelations mentions how the Devil goes off to make war on the rest of her children, on those who keep God's commandments and believe in Jesus. If that doesn't outright say that Mary is the mother to all Christians, I don't know how it can get any clearer.

    I've always likened Mary to the sacraments. God gave us sacraments to help us humans understand him. To me, what better way to understand his role as our father than to give us a human to look at as our mother? Jesus was made man but he was also divine. Mary wasn't a God but she lived life the way God originally made us to live.

  71. Wonderful post. I am on my way home now and I pray everyday that my Protestant friends will follow suit. I am overjoyed by the fact that I am now part of a Church (or will be at the Easter Vigil) that defends what she teaches and does not back down, even in the midst of intense cultural clashes.

  72. You say "Come Home." I love the call to unify our churches. Keep our brothers and sisters knowing that we, together, make the body of Christ. One thing that has been on my heart is that the Catholic denomination broke from Orthodoxy. Can we call you to come home too? What would it take? I know Christ can handle the impossible.

  73. You say "Come Home." I love the call to our brothers and sisters to come back into unity. We are all the body of Christ and the divisions can be solved through prayer. One thing that has been on my heart is that the Catholic church originally split from the apostolic ways in Orthodoxy. Can we call you home? What would it take to mend the schisms? Because my God can handle the impossible.

  74. Jackie, hello! Of course, as you know, we Catholics would say that you split from us. :) How do we unify? As we always have: Under the successor of St. Peter, the head of the Church. The recent popes (namely Blessed John Paul the Great) worked tirelessly on his end to heal the schism. There is a lot of hostility and resistance still from the Orthodox, but God can work a miracle and unite us again! My own parents are part of the Melkite Catholic Church. Fully Eastern, and yet united with all Catholics under the Pope. As you said, nothing is impossible with God. Let us pray!

  75. As for sola scriptura,there is no place in the Bible that says the Bible is the sole authority. In fact the Bible plainly states that the CHURCH is the pillar of our faith, NOT the Bible.
    "If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth." 1 Tim 3;15.The apostles and St. Paul did not go around with a bible in their hands. Rather they passed on what they had heard (the oral tradition).
    Our knowledge of scripture (we go through the Bible every 3 years by attending Churcg every Sunday) is the same because it has been handed down through the centuries by the Magesterium ( the pope, cardinals, bishops, priest and deacons). Unlike many Protestant denominations that tell their congregation that anyone can understand the Bible. Then when someone says to the minister ,No it doesn't mean that at all". So what happens. They start their own church and their own doctrines. Then someone in that congregation disagrees and BINGO they go and start a new church. That is why we have over 35,000 different denominations.
    Many of the ministers who come home to the Catholic Church said I can know say this is what this chapter in the Bible means and I know all Catholics believe the same. Try watching EWTN TV on Monday at 8 pm EST and you will see how many Protestant ministers are coming into the Catholic faith.
    Listen to what they have to say . I pray that God will open your heart and your eyes. God bless.

  76. Very well written. I've seen you have come under a bit of fire for speaking such words but do not fear, they maligned and rejected Jesus too, so is it any wonder they will malign and reject the Church which is His body?

    Keep up the good work and may God bless you.

  77. I totally agree with what you have said and you are most insightful.

  78. I have sent this to my favorite Protestant who is a far better Christian than I am and spend a great deal of time and effort evangelising on the internet. I have spent much time in prayer for him, please remember him in yours.

  79. Catholics venerate Mary as St. Mary, just as they venerate all saints. Many churches are called after St. Mary. How can any intelligent person call her anything else? Surely it's as simple as that!

  80. There is something I want to offer as a thought but before I do, I want to disclose that I am a Catholic who has developed an evangelical-esque mentality and attitude. The on fire for Christ approach that evangelicals have is something I find appealing, and it's something that I don't see on display within the Catholic world. That's something I wish the Catholic Church did a better job with; more Bible study. For example, Revelation is an important book of the Bible, otherwise it wouldn't be there. But for an every Sunday/every Holy Day of Obligation Catholic, Revelation barely exists, except for one reading on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. How are we supposed to grasp something which is barely mentioned? How are we to even know its importance? Then in the world around us, seemingly everybody is talking about how every world event was foretold in this book. People claim that 9/11 was in Revelation, that Barack Obama is in Revelation, that Pope Francis is in Revelation, that the Russian takeover of Crimea is in Revelation. But Catholics aren't versed in Revelation because the Catholic Church practically ignores its existence. Further, I give to my parish. But not all of my giving is to my parish. I give to "Christian" charities as well, because unlike with my parish, I know exactly what my gift is being used for with these charities. These charities specifically use gifts from people to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, comfort the sick, etc., the things Jesus commanded us to do for others. That's more meaningful to me than a paint job, or an electric bill, or someone's salary.

    Now for the point I want to make. My claim is that the human leaders of the Catholic Church who created our Hail Mary prayer didn't do the Church any favors. The first half of the prayer is taken directly from a pair of scripture passages in Luke. Nobody has an issue with that. The issue that gets Protestants riled up is referring to Mary as "Mother of God." Yes, I know that Jesus Christ was God in human form. Any Christian knows that. BUT, I don't profess that "God was crucified on a cross and rose from the dead to pay for our sins." The word "God" is used to refer to the Father, the creator of Heaven, Earth, and all living things. "Jesus Christ" is the Son of God, God in flesh, God in human form, our savior who died on the cross, etc.

    If the Hail Mary were written to say "Holy Mary, Mother of Christ..." then I don't think the false opinion that we Catholics "worship Mary" would be shouted from the rooftops by Protestants everywhere. Worship can be defined as putting someone or something on a pedestal. The honest reason why Protestants think we worship Mary is because this prayer calls her the mother of God (translated in the human mind to mean the Creator). You want to talk about putting her on a pedestal? You want to talk about a heresy? You want to talk about something which doesn't even make sense? They say we worship a woman whose life was at the time of Jesus' life as though she was the mother of the omnipotent deity who created everything, including humans! God (the Creator) was not born to a human being. Jesus was.

    Just because I (as a Catholic) don't worship Mary, that doesn't mean I don't understand how somebody else can get the impression that I (we) do. And I apologize if this offends any of my Catholic brethren, but when I say the Hail Mary, sometimes I will use the words "Mother of Christ" rather than "Mother of God."

  81. I am a practicing Catholic. However, without hesitation I will say that I have an evangelical Christian mentality. The Catholic Church can do so much for itself, without compromising any integrity whatsoever, by adding an emphasis on things such as Bible study and aggressively tackling real-world situations based upon the tenets of the Faith. I don't see it done nearly enough.

    When it comes to the subject of Mary, and why Catholic treatment of Mary is such a lightning rod for Protestants, it pays to have the mindset that I have. I understand where the Protestants are coming from. And while Catholics can talk about the difference between "veneration" and "worship" until we are blue in the face, it's not going to dispel the myth that exists about what we really do.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to the misconception of the Catholic treatment of Mary, much of the blame falls squarely upon the Catholic Council of Trent itself. Permit me to explain this. The first half of the "Hail Mary" consists of two separate greetings to Mary within Luke's gospel, one from the angel Gabriel and one from Elizabeth. Are you aware that EVEN Martin Luther, the founder of the entire Protestant reformation, advocated the use of "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus" as a sign of devotion to the Mother of our Savior? Luther had no objection whatsoever to the importance of Mary's role in Christianity; she was specifically chosen by God to bring our Lord and Savior to life, as even though God could have made Jesus just materialize out of thin air (for anything is possible with God), He correctly decided not to take that route.

    No, the issue stems from the phrase "Mother of God" in referring to Mary in the second half of the prayer (Protestants call this a tradition of man, as it was a creation of the Council of Trent and no such language appears anywhere in the Bible.) Worse, to a Protestant, this wording is a first-rate heresy. While Christians believe that Jesus Christ was God in human form, the use of the word "God" is not seen as proper when one is referring to Jesus. Think about it. Do you talk to somebody (in the course of normal conversation) and say that "God died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay the price for our sins?" NO!!

    "God" = The almighty, the Father, the Creator of Heaven, Earth, and all life, the Omnipotent and Omniscient and Omnipresent One.
    "Jesus"/"Christ"/"Jesus Christ" = The Son of God, God made man, The Savior of the World, the Crucified and Risen Lord.

    So, when a Protestant hears a Catholic reciting the "Hail Mary" and hears Mary being referred to as the "Mother of God," what is he or she going to think? Are you saying that Mary, a human being who was born sometime around 20 B.C., is the mother of the All-Powerful being who created everything, including the entire human race? To "worship" somebody or something means to put that person or thing on a pedestal. As a logical person, I agree that saying Mary was the mother of our Creator is putting her on one major, big-time pedestal, and therefore it is a case of worship. (By the way, if you were to refer to Mary as the Mother of Yahweh {God} in the Jewish world, you would have been stoned to death for blasphemy within a matter of minutes! So a Protestant objecting to this is hardly radical.)

    If only the Council of Trent had used "Mother of Christ" or "Mother of the Lord," instead of "Mother of God," I submit that we wouldn't have this major schism between the Catholics and Protestants (at least on the doctrine of Mary, they still don't comprehend Purgatory, and I don't think the Catholic Church does a very good job explaining what Purgatory is, either).

  82. Jim, welcome! Let me ask you, do you think that when Elizabeth called Mary "the Mother of my Lord" (Luke 1:43) that she was speaking heresy? What does "Lord" mean? What would it have meant to Elizabeth? Lord is God. Jesus is God. There is no heresy there, even if others who do not understand Catholicism believe that there is heresy. We can't change our teachings on things like the Eucharist, the sacraments, the priesthood, the Trinity, the Incarnation, simply because they might (no, will!) be misunderstood or disbelieved by some. You'd agree, correct? Remember, we Catholics understand that "Mother of God" implies "Mother of God Incarnate". And the whole controversy was settled when the heresy of Nestorian was put down by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. I hope you are not one to subscribe to that heresy.

    As for the Book of Revelation: Do you know that not only is it read in the Mass, but it is describing the Heavenly liturgy? Read it with the Church (and as the Fathers did), not as folks decided to interpret it independently of the Church some 1,500 years after the fact. I highly recommend Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper if you want to understand the context and meaning of the Book of Revelation. You will be amazed and surprised. Glorious!

    As for purgatory, even C.S. Lewis understood and believed it as a non-Catholic. It is logical and it is justice. Here is a very simple explanation which includes the biblical:

    And base question: Where do you think that the Scriptures came from? On whose authority did they come to you, and shouldn't that authority (which is pretty serious if God brought the Holy Bible to you through it) be the one to heed when considering its interpretation?


    1. What does the Catholic Church have, uniquely?

    2. And, what does she lack, in theory?

    3. And what does she lack, in practice?

    ITEM #1: What does the Catholic Church have, uniquely?

    Because devotion to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is so central to the faith, one is tempted to say, "the Eucharist." But the Eastern Orthodox have the Eucharist also. Churches which preserved a valid ordination into the Apostolic Succession with a correct sacramental theology of the Eucharist can confect the sacrament validly. So this is not what is unique to the Catholic Church.

    And, the Catholic Church has Stewards of the Kingdom, but, again, so does any church whose bishops are in the Apostolic Succession. In the Davidic Kingdom there were always many stewards who could bind and loose, whose offices had successors when the current occupant died. So, too, the Messianic Kingdom of the Son of David: And just as the Old Testament stewards' authority to prohibit & permit was called "binding and loosing," so too the Messianic stewards' authority to prohibit and permit was called "binding and loosing."

    But the Davidic King always had one particular steward called the Al-Bayith ("Head of House"), who was not merely a secular figure but also a religious one, because he was both the Steward and the Assistant to the High Priest, and was in charge of security and administration of both the Temple and the Royal Palace. Like any stewardly office, his office was also an office with successors: When one died, a new officeholder was appointed. But his office was unique in that it had authority, in the king's name and on the king's behalf, to override decisions made by other stewards.

    Consequently, if two kingdom stewards disagreed on kingdom policy, the Al-Bayith could step in and ensure unity in the king's name by rendering a final decision. And what the Al-Bayith "bound" no other steward could "loose," and what he "loosed" no other steward could "bind": When the Al-Bayith had spoken, the matter was settled.

    That was the institutional practice of the House of David (i.e., the Davidic Dynasty). All first century Jews knew this, as they waited for the restoration of the kingdom with the coming of the Messiah.

    No wonder, then, that the Gospel of Matthew, whose audience primary was the Jews, would emphasize Jesus' re-institution of the stewardly offices and the office of the Al-Bayith, to show that the Messiah had come and was re-establishing the Kingdom!

    For that, of course, is the meaning of Matthew 16 and 18.


  84. ..continuing...

    Jesus first (in Matthew 16) re-establishes the office of the Al-Bayith, making Peter both the Chief Steward under the King, and the Assistant to the High Priest under the High Priest (who is Jesus Himself). The "keys to the kingdom" are the New Covenant fulfillment of the prophetic "type" or "foreshadowing" described in Isaiah 22, the "keys of the house of David," and also of the "keys of the Temple Gates" which were held by the Al-Bayith in his role as security director for the Temple Precinct.

    And then, once the Al-Bayith is in place, Jesus explains (in Matthew 18) that the other apostles and their successors will also be stewards, having authority to bind and loose in the Kingdom of Heaven.

    (Guys, if something is confusing or disputed in the New Testament, look to the Old Testament to find the answer! The problem with people giving other anachronistic interpretations of Matthew 16 and 18 -- saying that binding & loosing refers merely to exorcism, for example -- is not that they aren't well-intentioned. It's that they aren't well-catechized first-century Jews, steeped in the Old Testament.)

    So: What does the Catholic Church have, uniquely?

    Well, the stewards are not unique to the Catholic Church, since they exist wherever the Apostolic Succession is preserved; e.g. among the Eastern Orthodox.


    The chief steward, the Al-Bayith, is only in the Catholic Church. That means that, until the Lord returns, the Catholic Church is the only place where conflicting opinions between two stewards can be resolved.

    Among the Eastern Orthodox, if one bishop or patriarch were to become an Arian heretic (as actually happened in history) and another opposed him, what would happen? Each would claim he was preaching true Christianity, and that the other was in error. Each would claim (correctly) that the True Church cannot preach error in faith or morals. Each would therefore claim that he and those in agreement with him were the True Church, and that the other party was in schism. Whichever camp had the most "pull" with secular rulers would try to have the other guys forcibly deposed from their stewardships and exiled from their dioceses.

    But Jesus provided not only restored stewardship offices, but a restored Chief Steward / Head-of-House office to resolve this very problem. Disputes can be appealed to the Al-Bayith, and what he binds or looses cannot be loosed or bound by any other steward: His is the court of final appeal. "Roma locuta, causa finita est": When the Al-Bayith has spoken, the matter is settled.

    In this fashion, the Al-Bayith becomes a firm foundation for maintaining the unity of the Church. The True Church does infallibly teach true doctrine -- but her doctrinal teaching is not firmly "settled" until it has been appealed up to the highest court and ratified by the Al Bayith. If two bishops call one another heretics, the bishop who is the successor of Peter will sort it out. And after THAT happens? The True Church is the church consisting of bishops in Apostolic Succession who remain in communion with the Successor of Peter.

    Thus is Isaiah 22 prophetically fulfilled: The Al-Bayith is a "tent peg driven into a firm place," holding the whole tent (read: "household/dynasty") of David together. He is like a "father" to the people of (the New) Jerusalem. He has the Keys of the Kingdom, and a robe of office and a sash of office and a seat/throne of stewardly authority, and what he binds, none other shall loose, and what he looses, none other shall bind. If a particular Al Bayith is faithless in some way (as Shebna was in Isaiah 22) then God will see to it that he dies and a more faithful successor (like Eliakim son of Hilkiah) takes his place. (Which is why we Christians today should persist patiently in faith, even if we live during the reign of a Borgia pope!)


  85. ...continuing...

    So, what does the Catholic Church have, uniquely?

    Doctrinal correctness and certainty and stability, that's what.

    Without the Al-Bayith (which we today call the "Successor of Peter" or the "Pope") Christianity can't resolve doctrinal disputes, and thus splits into factions favoring different opinions. But with the Al-Bayith, the whole household may be held together, like a tent held up by that single tent-peg driven in a secure place, or like a house built on a Rock.

    There will never be priestesses in the Church, or gay "marriages," or merely-symbolic communion services, or the treating of second marriages as valid rather than adulterous. Not in ten thousand years will it happen. A Catholic who teaches his kids what the Catholic Church teaches today knows, and knows that he knows, that his great-great-grandkids, if they are still Catholic and still pay attention to the actual teachings of the Church, will be taught the same faith.

    ITEM #2: What does the Church lack, in theory?

    Nothing, in theory.

    Whether it's Charismatic Christianity, or Fully-Taught Catechesis, or Good Youth Programs, or Good Local Fellowship With Believers, or Good Preaching, or Good Worship Music, or Beautiful Liturgy, or Evangelical Zeal...ALL of these things exist in the Catholic Church....somewhere or other.

    Yeah. Somewhere or other. Not, y'know, necessarily at any parish within driving distance of your house, maybe. But perhaps at some parish in an adjacent state!

    In theory, all of these things may be found in the Church, in the sense that they are known to exist somewhere, even if they are not near you. (Not everyone lives on-campus in Steubenville!)


  86. ...finally, concluding...

    ITEM #3: What does the Church lack, in practice?

    Ay, there's the rub.

    You see, the Devil did a really nasty number on Christ's Church, when he talked the Eastern Orthodox stewards (with their deep mysticism and monastic traditions and beautiful liturgy) into schisming away from the Al-Bayith. Much of the richness of Christ's Church is lost to the Catholic Church because this "lung" is no longer oxygenating the whole body.

    And the Devil did an even nastier number when he talked Luther and Calvin and others into setting up alternative ecclesial communities in the 1500's, each of which (for lack of the unity and judicial finality that the Al-Bayith provides) has further splintered into thousands of yet-smaller groups. Each group has its speciality: Sometimes it's a great choral tradition. Sometimes it's openness to the fire of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it's door-to-door evangelism. Sometimes it's great preaching. Sometimes it's effectively catechizing kids.

    But the problem is that, whenever one of these offshoot groups becomes really excellent at its speciality, it naturally draws to itself all the Christians who're most talented/gifted in that area.

    No wonder, then, that Catholics are mostly deprived of good hymn-singing: They all went to Anglican and Baptist and AME churches, where the hymn-singing is awesome. No wonder there aren't so many Charismatic Catholics; they all went to the Pentecostal Holiness groups and Assemblies of God groups. No wonder Catholics stink at door-to-door evangelism; all the Christians who're most comfortable at that wound up in churches which specialize in it. And so on.

    So what does the Catholic Church lack in practice?

    In practice, it lacks many of the strengths that it WOULD have, if only the Kingdom of God wasn't divided!

    For there are Charismatic Catholics, of course. But possibly not anywhere near you. There are great hymn-writers and parishes where the whole congregation can sing them in four-part SATB...but I bet you haven't ever seen it at your local parish. There are parishes with beautiful liturgy...but I bet you've attended a few too many Clown Masses with Felt Banners. There are Catholic priests and deacons who can preach, but I bet you've seen more who could barely be heard or understood and to whom it was brutally difficult to maintain close attention. You can even see it in praise-and-worship music: The rest of the Christian world is full of hundreds of Darlene Zschechs and Chris Tomlins and Michael W. Smiths and Todd Fields and whoever, and Catholics have...Matt Maher. (And, yes, a few others with profound talent, but the numbers are far fewer.)

    Catholics have doctrinal purity and stability because Jesus set up His Kingdom that way.

    And those who've left the Church inevitably divide again and again, for lack of the office that Jesus intended to doctrinally unify His flock.

    But they take with them many of the gifts and talents which Jesus intended to provide OTHER EXCELLENCES in the Church.

    Correct doctrine is, without a doubt, most important. "The Truth Shall Set You Free." Jesus told His apostles to go into all the word making disciples, "teaching them whatsoever I have commanded you." Whatsoever. Every last little detail.

    But dang, what a great witness it would be if the Excellences of the other groups came back into unity with the whole, such that Excellence in all these areas, not merely doctrine, was the common experience of all Christians!

    In practice, the Catholic Church does lack that.

    That's because, dear Protestant brother or sister, she lacks YOU.

    Give the Kingdom of God a helping hand, will you?

  87. RC, Thanks for this post. I have been looking for a good explanation of why the Orthodox are in schism and not us. This is great. I also like #3. Never looked at it like that. Beautiful.

  88. Bob:

    Glad it was helpful.

    This also might help evaluate the Eastern Orthodox: Ask what distinguishes them from the Oriental Orthodox, the Assyrian Church of the East, or any other Orthodox-esque groups.

    These other groups split away from Christian unity at earlier points than the Eastern Orthodox did. The usual pattern was something like this:

    1. Group-Of-Bishops A follows Prominent Bishop A1 in teaching Doctrine X;
    2. Group-Of-Bishops B follows Prominent Bishop B1 in teaching Doctrine Y;
    3. Doctrine X conflicts with Doctrine Y;
    4. Group A denounces B1 as a heretic and Group B denounces A1 as a heretic;
    5. a Council is announced to resolve who's right;
    6. the Council is held;
    7. the Council finds in favor of Doctrine X, rejects Doctrine Y, and calls on Group B (especially Prominent Bishop B1) to recant Y and embrace X, or be removed from their sees;
    8. some members of Group B recant Y and embrace X, and remain in The Church;
    9. others members of Group B -- who initially showed up at the Council hoping to be vindicated, remember -- come up with some reason why the council is invalid. They say that only people who believe Doctrine Y are in The True Church, and people who believe Doctrine X are heretics. They go start their own churches.

    So, you get Nestorian Churches, and Monophysite Churches and/or Miaphysite Churches, that way.

    Now, note how the new churches in step 9 derive their claim to be The True Church:

    They don't base their claim on any visible, objective, and unique sign of unity (e.g. communion with a particular see), but on the invisible or subjective or non-unique sign of Having The Right Doctrine in the AX-BY debate.

    Please don't misunderstand that last paragraph. I'm not saying that there's no such thing as objective truth, that all truth is subjective, or any such damned nonsense.

    I'm saying that you can objectively prove which bishops are in communion with a particular bishop: Just look it up or ask. But judging on Who Is Right about a deep, technical point of theology is much less objectively resolvable!

    The question of who Has The Right Doctrine in the AX-BY debate cannot be known apart from first Finding The True Church and asking The Church to judge the matter as in Matthew 18...which is circular reasoning. IF IT WERE TRUE that the only way to know who is in the True Church is by FIRST deciding who is right about AX-BY, you would have to first pick your position on AX-BY without any help from the True Church, and then you'd have to ask the Church that agreed with your position what the true doctrine is in the AX-BY debate! (But of course, your own individual judgment is fallible, so you could never be sure you had consulted the right Church...and consequently, your question remains unresolved!)

    Lots of circular reasoning, no? A total dog's breakfast, isn't it?


  89. ...continuing...

    My take on the matter is: That kind of system is the kind of unworkable mess a human being would come up with. But God would not come up with that kind of system. If Jesus came up with THAT, then Jesus is Not God. But He is God. So that cannot be how He intended that the True Church be identified, or correct doctrine defended.

    Now it turns out that this is exactly the kind of basis upon which the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, etc., separate from Catholics and from one another. "We are separated from Church Q because Church Q entered into heresy when they did not accept the Council of N." (Or, "when they accepted the False Council of N...")

    It's a little different between the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholics because of certain doctrines (e.g. the filioque) where you can't point to a particular Council where both parties showed up to have it out, which one party later rejected. But whenever that was the basis for schism, the principle of "We're The Real Church Because We Have The Right Doctrine" is still in use. And it's just as circular.

    I recently had a brief dialogue with an E.O. priest about this, in fact. "How do you resolve doctrinal disputes?" I asked. He said. "through councils."

    To which I replied, "And how do you resolve disputes about which councils were binding, and which were invalid?" And he replied, "Well, sometimes the bishops and council fathers are right, and sometimes they're wrong. If they're wrong, then over time the Holy Spirit leads the faithful laypersons and especially the monastics, to reject the council, and eventually the bishops follow suit. So sometimes the bishops correct the laity and monastics, and sometimes the laity and monastics correct the bishops."

    To which I said, "Well, what if one group or the other refuses to be corrected?" He said, "Well, ultimately they'd be in schism from the Church."

    The dialogue more-or-less ended there, but you can see what the obvious next question would be: "Well, someone would be in schism, sure, but how can anyone know which of the two sides went into schism, and which is still the real Church?"

    You can't. Not under that Ecclesial Principle.

    So if a person were looking for the Real Church and started looking at one of the Orthodox groups, that would be the problem. There'd be no way to know which one to join, except through circular reasoning and question-begging. It would be unresolvable, really.

    Whereas the Catholic understanding of the Magisterium actually WORKS, through time: The Council is valid if approved by the Pope, because the matter cannot be "appealed" any higher: The Al Bayith has "locked," and no other shall "unlock," just like it says in Isaiah 22.

  90. I am happy to say that I and my DH came home last Easter!!! Hallelujah!! And I just found your fantastic blog and will ad it to my blogroll. /Maria swedish mother of five (#6) in the womb (Please pray for my 4 oldest protestant children that they also finds their way HOME!!!


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