Responding to Anti-Catholicism on the Internet
Catholics poorly educated in their faith and non-Catholics filled with prejudices, often prejudge the Catholic faith or difficult issues of our discipleship. Such biases, reinforced by others with grievances, are often hard to overcome-- no matter how clearly they are shown to be wrong. The matter of "sola scriptura" is a case in point. Can a believer in Christ interpret the bible without any help from anyone else and without any Magisterium of the Church? While the fundamentalist might distort Scripture by citing isolated verses against Catholic positions; any Scriptures shown to challenge them are dismissed as irrelevant or misinterpreted, no matter how the full context of the teaching is intelligently explained. They are blind to the fact that they have made themselves or their favorite minister into their own private magisterium-- the final authority. They ridicule others holding the same view of "sola scriptura" who interpret the Scriptures differently than they do. Despite the thousands of fragments into which Protestantism has fallen, they insist that there is no NEED for a genuine teaching authority safeguarded by the Holy Spirit in the Church. They violate salvation history by denying that the Church came into being prior to the completion of the Scriptural canon and the composition of the New Testament. Facts do not matter to them unless they are "their" facts. The living tradition and the authority of the Church have always had a part to play in regard to the formation and the truths of Scripture. Just as they reject a teaching authority and are blind to their own claims to infallible interpretation, so too are they hesitant to admit their own church traditions, even if they are only a generation or so old. The "sola scriptura" Christians view the bible as emerging from some vacuum in time to be picked up later by men who themselves would form churches. This contradicts the fact that Jesus himself said that he was going to found a Church and that he was going to give his apostles, with Peter at the head, as its shepherds. Their contradictions to this do not wash. No Catholic Church, no Christian Bible! It is as simple as that, and yet, they still refuse to believe.
False is their view that all personal interpretation of the bible is forbidden to Catholics. Catholic Christians will often search the bible for personal edification and for the voice of God in their lives. What the Church holds is that an individual's interpretation must not contradict a text that has a universally accepted interpretation in the Church, such as regarding the identity or nature of Christ and the means of our salvation, etc. Accompanied by good footnotes and commentaries, the Catholic reader can make great personal use of the Scriptures.
When trounced by a Catholic who really knows the bible, the anti-Catholic bigot will resort to name-calling. One website, upon this very topic, called God's Church "the Roman whore" and a "prostitute." Since St. Paul tells us that husbands should love their wives as Christ has loved the Church, I suppose the derogatory language ultimately targets Christ, no matter whether they know this or not. How would any husband feel to have his wife degraded in this manner? Do they not fear judgment? Failing at any coherent dialogue, the anti-Catholic will tell so-called honest men and women to run for their lives. In other words, even conversation with knowledgeable Catholics is compromise. Instead, they want the gullible and the intellectually ill-equipped who can be easily maneuvered into their camp. The author of the website in question advises Protestants to avoid the Catholic Church and her emissaries as one would the "bubonic plague" and that otherwise, "AIDs and death" might await them.
After urging avoidance, they have the audacity to say that the Catholic Church refuses to allow people to use the brains God gave them. The next big lie is that the Church forbad Catholics to read the bible. The truth is, that long before these anti-Catholic bible Christians or their founders came into existence, the Church had to contend with heresy and the Protestant reformation. Some of these flawed bible texts, even the fundamentalists today would reject. The Church did not ban the bible; rather, she wanted to insure that Catholics read bibles that were accurate and complete. This is the truth upon the matter. Popes have urged believers to approach the Scriptures with real humility and to invoke the Spirit of truth. The Scriptures confirm the claims of the Catholic Church and that of our fathers in faith. This point is also quickly verifiable; however, anti-Catholic critics will have none of it. Indeed they argue the opposite is true. Again, the argument will move from the issues to an attack on the institution and those who speak for her. Thus, someone of my likes would be dubbed "poisoned by his pride" and the Church denounced as a "monstrous entity" which "enslaves the souls of men" in preparation for hell. As you can see, they do not exactly like us. They reduce the Gospel to a propaganda program of hatred and misinformation.
I write this to you about those who would deceive you; but the anointing which you received from him abides in you and you have no need that any one should teach you; as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie, just as it has taught you, abide in him (1 John 2:26-27).
While the anti-Catholic fundamentalist uses this text against the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, it is actually a rebuke against himself. His own role as a teacher of faith contradicts a literal reading of these verses. John speaks here with the authority of an apostle, a role which shall find its succession in the bishops. The warning here is not against the Magisterium of the Church, but against those who would lead God's people astray. There is no other Gospel that saves other than that of Jesus Christ. No community possesses any secret knowledge that surpasses that of the public proclamation of the true Church. Keeping faith in Christ Jesus, the believer is baptized and anointed (confirmation), receiving the Spirit of wisdom, the Holy Spirit. We have a responsibility to know the true faith and to spread it. This is the mission of the Church. The Christian has no need to seek another religious truth and we are to remain in solidarity with the chosen community of faith and in union with God. True wisdom and faith comes as a gift from God. Further, the Holy Spirit leads the humble person to God. Against the Gnostic heretics, John is defending the Catholic truth that Jesus is the anointed Holy One, the Christ. Jesus Christ is indeed the revelation of the Father. In a certain sense, the "sola scriptura" critic of Catholicism is kin to these ancient Gnostics. While they believe that Jesus is both Christ and Savior; like the Gnostics, they minimize the importance of the material in regards to the spiritual. Thus, the Mystical Body and pre-eminence of the Church is denied, the sacramental signs are ridiculed, and the significance of the body in our personhood is often maligned for its wickedness.
Another interesting element about the verses given is their context. At the end of chapter two something is said about our justification that is sure to make the anti-Catholic fundamentalist uncomfortable: "If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that every one who does right is born of him." A real sign of our being "born again" is our just behavior; dare I say, our good works?
So each of us shall give account of himself to God (Romans 14:12).
The anti-Catholic critic would do well to read a few verses earlier, "Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother?" (Romans 14:10). Dissimilar from most other institutions, the inherent unity of Church members in Christ means that an attack against the whole is an assault on each one, and visa versa. The Church is a family. It is not really possible to hate the Church but to love individual Catholics. Hate the family, and you hate all of us. We are the Church.
Again, I am a bit taken aback by such a citation which immediately points to how one's faith is actualized by the life of charity and following the commandments. We will each have to give an accounting for what we did in the body, either good or evil. While there is a particular judgment for each of us, there will also be a general judgment at the end of the world. Individual souls as members of God's holy people or those for whom the Church has interceded will be accorded the reward of the just. The communion of saints is a celebration of the unity of the Church among those glorified by grace and thus worthy of heaven. They have repented and have place their faith in Jesus. They are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb and given the wedding garment of heaven as their vestiture. Those who rejected the gift of salvation remain lost in their sins. They are separated from God and breached from their brothers and sisters by their own selfishness and iniquity.
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come (John 16:13).
These words are not written for various individuals apart from the believing community; these words regarding the Holy Spirit are directed to the Church as a whole. This promise of Christ is fulfilled when the Holy Spirit descended upon the infant Church at Pentecost. Imaged as tongues of flame over the heads of the apostles, the leadership of the Church would always be enlightened and protected in the truth. Individual members can and should invoke the Holy Spirit for wisdom. But, the gift of infallibility and steadfastness in the truth is conferred upon the Church, particularly the Magisterium, and not to every individual believer. The assurance of Christ's teachings require that members of the faith take seriously the guidance of their lawful shepherds and that they seek to conform their heart and mind to that of Christ realized in the teaching Church. Our Lord speaks to us through his Church.
As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than that which you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:9).
Fundamentalist critics love this verse; however, given no restraining context, it might just as well apply to them. Originally it applied to those missionaries who insisted that pagans had to become Jews before becoming Christians. Thus, circumcision and other Jewish rituals would be placed on par with the saving Cross of Christ. Paul denounces this activity and insists that his is the correct Gospel proclamation. Catholics place faith in Jesus and consider baptism as the manner in which we join the new People of God and are touched by Christ's saving activity. The verse can in no way be applied against the Catholic Church.
Now I would remind you brethren, in what terms I preached to you the gospel which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, . . . (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Paul recalls the living TRADITION which he himself received and transmitted to the Corinthians. Paul stresses their faith in Christ and in his saving actions against the views of those who would deny the bodily resurrection of the Lord. Catholics believe in this very same Gospel and retain the ancient traditions repudiated by non-Catholics.
And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, . . ." ( Acts 16:31).
Here the anti-Catholic critic is purposely
deceptive. As the verse reads, it appears that salvation is an entirely
personal matter. Nothing could be further from the case. The complete verse
reads as follows, "And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and
you will be saved, YOU AND YOUR HOUSEHOLD.' AND THEY SPOKE THE WORD OF
THE LORD TO HIM AND TO ALL THAT WERE IN HIS HOUSE. AND HE TOOK THEM THE
SAME HOUR OF THE NIGHT, AND WASHED THEIR WOUNDS, AND HE WAS BAPTIZED AT
ONCE, WITH ALL HIS FAMILY. THEN HE BROUGHT THEM UP INTO HIS HOUSE, AND
SET FOOD BEFORE THEM; AND HE REJOICED WITH ALL HIS HOUSEHOLD THAT HE HAD
BELIEVED IN GOD" (Acts 16:31-34). Can we presume that even the babies
of the household were baptized? Probably so. The household or family becomes
the setting for the "little church." The gift of faith brings
people to Christ, not simply as isolated individuals, but corporately--
as a family of faith.
He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life. I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:12-13).
Pope John Paul II stressed this crucial element of the Good News in his encyclical on the Gospel of Life. Christ is the author of life and makes possible our share in eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
Again, this is a central teaching of the Catholic faith. Those who would use it to stress belief or faith profession over the merits of the Christian life would do well to read verse 21: "But he who DOES WHAT IS TRUE comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his DEEDS have been wrought in God."
You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
Yes, we believe as Catholics that God will show his face to those who search for him with humility and with sincere hearts. God is the source of our being. He gives our lives meaning. As St. Augustine would say, "Our hearts are restless O Lord, until they rest in you."
REFERENCES TO PAGAN ROME USED AGAINST THE CHURCH:
is often misapplied to the Roman Catholic Church. The great harlot Babylon
symbolizes the Rome of pagans not of Christians. Despite persecution and
martyrdom, Christians of the first century are urged not to surrender their
precious faith in Christ.
What is a Christian?
[CCC #1694] Incorporated into Christ by Baptism, Christians are "dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus" and so participate in the life of the Risen Lord (Romans 6:11 and cf. 6:5; cf. Col. 2:12). Following Christ and united with him (cf. John 15:5), Christians can strive to be "imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love" (Ephesians 5:1-2) by conforming their thoughts, words and actions to the "mind . . . which is yours in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5), and by following his example (cf. John 13:12-16).
Scripture texts taken from Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, 1965 & 1966.
Revised April 2, 1998
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