Thursday, April 7, 2016

Quotidian Apologetics--6: Cult or Sacred Authority

  In these series of essays on everyday apologetics we have already given attention to the worship of The Mass and its roots in Salvation History.  Your Protestant friends who are curious about knowing more about The Catholic Church may have trouble with some of the small rituals such as ringing of bells, burning of incense, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross over our bodies.  But an engaged Protestant will readily appreciate the liturgy present in The Mass, they may even be open to considering that the Eucharist is more than a symbol.
  However, when it comes to considering the Sacred Authority present in The Catholic Church you, as we did, will face many questions about your Catholic Faith like--"Where is the evidence for the Sacred Authority in the Bible?".  Others will doubt--"How can a pope be without error (infallible)?" or "The Bible doesn't really say that The Catholic Church is protected by apostolic authority, does it?"; Some very intelligent friends and family may even be ignorant of The Catholic Faith--"How can you worship the pope?!"; Perhaps you've been confronted by alarm or defensiveness; "Have you been forced into believing this?", "Who coerced you into making your decision to believe that The Catholic Church is The Church that Christ established through his apostles?" And then there's the absurd stereotypical declarations of those who fear what they do not know: "The Catholic Church is the 'whore of Babylon!'" and "The Catholic Church is responsible for the evils of the last 2,000 years." And even the inane, "The Catholic Church operates like the Klu Klux Klan, it's a cult!" 
   Now you may think that we will help you come up with packaged answers to any of the above objections to The Catholic Church and her Sacred Authority present in the Pope and the Magisterium. You may want to refer back to our February 2, 2016 post that introduced this series. We follow St. Bernadette's admonition, It is not our job to convince, it is our job to inform. Unfortunately not everyone wants to be informed, they may just want to debate with you.  So we will give you some of our own questions that we have asked our thorough-going Protestants who are on the defense about their Protestant position. And then, of course, we will refer you to what The Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about The Faith.
   St. Augustine confronted the same heresies of The Christian Faith when he penned, "The Truth is like a lion, you don't have to defend it. Let it loose, it will defend itself."  We could amend his words to say that history is like a lion, you don't have to defend it. Let it loose, it will defend itself. Every age has suffered from division and The Catholic Church has responded through its 21 councils to the threats to the Christian doctrine (22 Councils if you include the Council of Jerusalem in 48 A.D. (See The Church is responsible by the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the Apostolic Authority ordained by Christ for keeping The Christian Faith unsullied by the heretical trends of the ages.  With each tide of protest that has threatened to infiltrate and dilute Christian doctrine, The Catholic Church (The popes and the Magisterium) has stood immovable on Christian Doctrine.  One of the most recent councils, The Council of Trent (1545-63 A.D.), protected Christian Doctrine from the cultural tide of protest that caused The Protestant Reformation.  You can read for yourself how The Church's Sacred Authority responded to those heresies that threatened the integrity of The Faith.

   Our guess is that your Protestant friend is more curious than doubtful about the integrity of the Sacred Authority of The Church.  We may even go so far to say that your Protestant friend longs for the integrity and stability of Christian Doctrine since it is something that the Protestant Movement compromised in its rebellion against the Sacred Authority of the Church.
   We will open a window on the underlying frustrations of disenchanted Protestants by sharing a conversation we had over pizza with a Calvinist (John Calvin is one of the early protesters from the 1500's of The Protestant Movement) pastor and his wife.  They were curious about our journey home to The Catholic Church and, in fact, were examining their doubts more closely through investigation of their own denomination's tenets of Christianity.  With one fist our friend pounded the table and declared his belief in "Sola Scriptura!" (Scripture only). In the same breath he declared his longing for the Authority of The Church.  It comes down to this: you cannot have the Sacred Scripture without the integrity of the Sacred Authority of The Catholic Church that has protected The Sacred Scriptures through the Holy Spirit's empowering of the Apostolic Authority Christ ordained (St. Matthew 16:18-19; Isaiah 22:15-24; The Gospel of John 16:13).  So you may pose the question to your friend's inquiry, "Have you ever considered where the Sacred Scriptures come from and how they became the Bible that you read?"
   The same conversation included the frustration that their denomination doesn't have any theological writings older than 500 years and that their denomination's current history theologians are few. And that is a common frustration among Protestant pastors and educators.  It was one of ours, one we eventually could not ignore any longer!  The historical integrity of Christian Doctrine that you may take for granted as a Catholic has been compromised so often during Protestantism's history that it is the very thing your Protestant friend may be longing for, but they aren't sure how to find it. Our job as a cordial Catholic Christian is to guide our friends to the reliable source of The Christian Faith. Christian Doctrine was formulated through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. That guidance, present from the beginning of The Church, manifested in Doctrines of the Faith such as The Trinity; The Virgin Birth; The Incarnation of Chris and more. It was the Catholic Church through its Councils against heresies that threatened right Christian Doctrine that held the integrity of Christian theology together.  History's theologians:  The Apostolic Fathers, the early Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, the popes and the Magisterium through the guidance of the Holy Spirit have always been the intrepid defenders of The Faith.  Refer your friends to the writings. Easily accessible online.
Church Fathers:  and 

   If your Protestant friend is truly searching and desiring to dialogue with you about the Catholic Faith you may want to ask them the questions we asked ourselves in our journey away from evangelical Protestantism for answers. Not all Protestant Christians are serious about their Christian faith just as there are Catholic Christians who are not serious about their Christian faith.  Yet there are many that are searching for what we eventually found in The Catholic Church.  These questions led us in our investigation to how The Sacred Authority of the Catholic Church has protected The Christian Faith.

What does it mean to you to be a Christian?
Why do you believe that Christianity is defined by your answer?
Where did you learn about Christianity?
Who explained "salvation" to you?
Where did that church or person come up with what they believe is Christianity?
How old is your church or denomination or movement?
Where are the documents of your church's leadership located?
Have you read them?

   When asked to explain our belief in the authority of the Catholic Church here is what we propose to those who are curious about what we believe and why we believe it:

Have you read The Catechism of the Catholic Church? 

We are Catholic Christians because of the Creed.  

We practice Christianity according to the sacramental order of God's design for the Salvation of his Creation.

Our Christian identity is lived according to the Covenant God made with man and fulfilled in the life of Christ.

As Catholic Christians we profess the Mystery of Faith in the Apostles/Nicene Creed and we celebrate The Faith through sacramental liturgy (the work of the people). We are conformed to the image of God (sanctification) by the Holy Spirit. The relationship we have with God is because of that belief. We celebrate it and we live it in a vital and personal relationship with God by praying life. Everything we do is offered up as a prayer to God.  Our worship, our work, our relationships all begin and end with prayer (communion with God).

   Pope Benedict XVI called The Church to the New Evangelization--we must know what we believe and why we believe it before others will desire to know more about our Christian Faith. Catechisis of adult Catholics has risen to the Pope's call.  There are many excellent resources available to parishes and individuals.  All of the resources have as their foundation The Catechism of the Catholic Church. Why not read it again for yourselves.

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