“I’m Catholic, but…”

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-by Oliver Llewellyn

“I’m Catholic, but… I don’t believe in ….” How many times have you heard those dreaded words? What does being Catholic even mean? Is it merely a cultural identity tag that people inherit through birth, or does it mean so much more? Can you be truly Catholic while then denouncing certain Church doctrines?

By its very definition, being Catholic means existing in a faithful relationship with the Magesterium, and accepting the notion of Apostolic Succession. How can anyone claim to be Catholic while openly disagreeing with the teachings of the Apostles’ successors? Protestantism today displays the visible scars of this individualistic approach whereby essentially theology and dogma are moulded around individual convictions. If you don’t like an interpretation of a particular section of scripture, then simply move to another Church until you hear a homily that you agree with.

Unfortunately Catholics are not immune to this phenomenon of adapting God and theology to our own needs and desires. If we don’t like a particular teaching of the Church, then we may simply chose to ignore it, or worse still openly object to it, while still maintaining that we are ‘Catholic’. Who am I to disagree with the Magesterium of the Holy Catholic Church? Is there a chance that some of the teachings of the Church will challenge me both intellectually and spiritually? Of course. May I have to spend significant amounts of time in prayer trying to understand a particular doctrine? Of course. But what I do not have any right to do is declare Church doctrines as errant – to struggle with doctrine is one thing, but to declare it false is another.

The Holy Catholic Church does not pretend to be a democratic institution in which theology is determined by the majority of believers.  Truth is NOT determined by a majority, but by a simple minority of ONE, the GREAT I AM, OUR CREATOR AND LORD!!!!  OUR JUDGE AND GOD!!!!  JESUS CHRIST, TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN!!!!  The Author and Protagonist of ALL TRUTH!!!!  Truth does NOT fit neatly into sound bites!!!  Life is NOT that simple!!!  Neither are we nor should we be!!  At the head of the Church is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit was sent to guide the Apostles (not you or I) and their successors into all truth. Do we really expect that the way of God would not challenge us? Do we really expect the way of God to be susceptible to societal changes of opinion?

Should we then simply blindly accept whatever the Church teaches? I’d hesitate to go that far. God gave us minds, hearts, wills, and intellect for a reason!!  Use them, rightly, to give Him honor, laud, glory, and praise!  Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!!!!   I believe that we are all called to faithfully examine our own beliefs and those of the Church. If you do find yourself in a situation where you are seriously doubting Church doctrine, then what should you do? Well here are a few suggestions that have helped me in the past:

  1. Make sure you know what the Church actually teaches. I can’t remember the amount of times that I read a ‘belief’ of the Catholic Church, or had people question me about so called ‘beliefs’, and later discovered that that Catholic Church doesn’t even teach these ‘beliefs’! Always check a teaching with the Catechism or your local parish priest. After all, you may find that you have spent precious time doubting something that the Church of Jesus Christ has never even believed. Papal infallibility can seem off putting when you falsely assume that the Church believes that Popes are born without sin and are actually incapable of sinning throughout the lives. The concept becomes much easier to digest when you understand what the Church actually believes.
  2. Spend time reading around the topic/belief you’re struggling with, and try to understand the origin of the Church’s belief (e.g. scriptural verses) and the implications of the belief. Merely being able to recite the Church’s teaching on contraception doesn’t mean that you will automatically find yourself agreeing with it. Spending time learning what the church believes about the marital act and studying Humanae Vitae will, however, help to understand the Church’s teaching.  It is beautiful.
  3. Pray about the issue. The God of the Universe, of Heaven and Earth, of Time and Space is eager to help you understand His Truths.  Don’t ignore Him.  He will give you ALL you truly need.  Knock.  Seek.  Find.  Have it opened unto you.  O ye of little faith!!!!  Don’t be afraid to tell God that you really don’t understand something, and that you actually find some beliefs incredulous. I’ve always found it really helpful to ask the Saints to intercede on my behalf and join their prayers with mine when I’m going through periods of doubt.  AMEN!!!!  AMEN!!!  AMEN!!!!!

The above list isn’t meant to serve as an infallible guide to resolving all our spiritual doubts and needs, but I’m offering advice from my own personal experience of doubting the beliefs of the Church. Interestingly enough, I can honestly say that I’ve always managed to become fully reconciled with the teachings of the Church. Of course some teachings have been more difficult than others to agree with, but through the grace of God I’ve always been moved to a point of complete communion with the body of Christ.

So the next time we hear the words “Unam, sanctam, catholicam” at Mass, let us spend a minute to dwell on their implications, and may we remember that there is only one church of Jesus Christ, and that church is not answerable to you or I, but is headed by Jesus Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit.”

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Pray Psalms 135, 136.

ALL I want, in this life, or the next, is MY JESUS!!!

Love,
Matthew

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