Monday, July 16, 2007

Give Me a "C"

I’ve been digesting various reactions to Pope Benedict’s pronouncement on the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, and I knew they would generate a post once I gathered enough data.

With the receipt of this link to Mark Alexander’s “Catholic v. catholic?” today, I’m good to go.

It is astonishing, the depth of ignorance (and often, bigotry) displayed by critics of the Catholic faith. Even those who are undoubtedly highly educated, scholarly, devout religious people get so many of the facts wrong that it’s hard to know where to begin addressing them.

It’s no surprise that Benedict’s firm position on Catholicism would upset the ecumenical applecart. In view of the angst-filled reaction to the Pope’s temerity in stating he actually believes that his religion is correct, it seems that all Christian denominations will no longer be singing the same verse of “Kumbaya” around the theological campfire.

That’s a good thing. There are differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, and Pope Benedict is courageous enough to state that fact plainly. It's not meant as personal criticism to our brethren in Christ, but rather an indication that it's time for Christians to stop nodding and smiling at each other, with no real progress towards cohesiveness, and to start talking and working together towards the one unified Church that Jesus Christ envisioned.

I, for one, am relieved and happy. For many years, the Catholic Church has been drifting ever more deeply into the sea of change, to the point that I was sometimes queasy. Benedict has drawn a bold line against the sands of that shifting sea. My Church is back ashore, and with a winner's attitude. From his heavenly box seat, St. Paul must be smiling.

Why should Catholics be expected to apologize for our faith? Absolutely no reason. Yet this outrageous demand has been pressed upon our Church by the modern world (as Christ predicted it would be). We must “respect” Islam, no matter what atrocities it supports. But the Catholic Church is “divisive” simply because it publicly asserts the tenets of its faith?

The Catholic Church is not “divisive.” It is different. It distinguishes itself from other Christian denominations in many significant ways. Pope Benedict XVI can trace his lineage all the way back to Peter the Apostle, under Christ’s authority. Not under Henry VIII’s authority, not Martin Luther’s, not John Calvin’s—under Jesus Christ's authority.

You know. Our Lord.

Hence, this Christian will stick with the pope and his Catholic Church. He's got the best backing. Think about it; the Catholic Church did not endure through two millennia, and grow to over one billion members, because it is fatally flawed.

Another dramatic difference from other Christian denominations is our belief in transubstantiation, the miracle of the Mass. At consecration, the bread and wine are transformed into the Holy Eucharist. For Catholics, this is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. The Eucharist was not meant to be “symbolic,” as more than one Protestant cleric has argued with me. Read what Our Lord actually says in the Gospel retellings of the Last Supper. The words are simple and easy to understand. He clearly states that the divine transformation of bread and wine is the real deal—His own body and blood.

Call us crazy, but we Catholics take Our Lord at His word.

Alexander’s article contained a wealth of errors and misinterpretations. It would take many posts to address all of them, so I’ll chose two of the most glaring: Papal authority and the seven sacraments (which are: Baptism, Confirmation, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, Sacrament of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony). These are hardly “false doctrine.” All are directly traceable to the words of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospels.

As for devotion to Mary, I would ask my Protestant friends this question: Where would the catholic Church be without her?

I could expand indefinitely on this topic of Benedict's reinvigoration of our Church. It is a subject of endless fascination to me. I haven’t even touched upon the announced return of the Tridentine Mass, which has me singing “Tantum Ergo” in joy and counting the days until September 14.

Meanwhile, I say “Go, Benedict!” Thanks for reminding us, and encouraging us to be excited, that we’re Catholic. With an upper case C.