Catholic confusion

rebellion against Catholicism

I recently spent two weeks in Milan, Italy. Our team built some really enjoyable friendships with some bright and thoughtful college students there. The excuse for our friendship was to provide some avenues of practice for their English. And while that was going on, we were all hoping to get to know them on a deeper level. Who wouldn’t want to hang out and drink espresso with young Italian students?

Right away, the biggest surprise for me was how many of the students held a generally atheistic or, at best, agnostic outlook. So many of them had decided to reject any idea of God once they became old enough to ask questions and make their faith something personal and important in their lives. But this was Italy, home of the Vatican, and almost all of them had been raised in “the church.” To them, church was exclusively Catholicism, and what my beliefs represented was more often viewed by their parents as a Satanic cult rather than basic Christianity.

I really wish I was joking about that, but from what I gather, this abandonment of faith is far more common than people realize. And it seems to be especially common among people raised in the Catholic Church. Not to say Catholicism is completely evil, or that any church has it perfect, for that matter. But the differences in fundamental Catholic teaching, in my opinion, warrant examination and a good bit of concern.

One of the students we met had recently professed Jesus as his Lord and Savior, had started to read the Bible, and even decided to get baptized. All the while, he was being told by his mother that he was worshiping Satan. He was a very vocal atheist before becoming a Christian, but somehow for his mom, anything but the Catholic Church was a spawn of the devil. She hated that he made time to see his cultish American friends every day, no matter how much more loving and joyful he was compared to before he discovered his faith.

It didn’t matter how many times he reassured his mom that he was reading the Bible and trusted that Jesus died for his sins. She had no answer when he asked her to show him where it says in the Bible that we can help someone else into heaven with our own prayer and monetary gifts to the church. She didn’t understand when he tried to explain that if something like that was possible, there was no need for Jesus to die. If that were true, there was no logic for why the temple curtain was split from top to bottom. And no matter what he said, nothing would help his mother realize that the concept of Mary, the mother of Jesus, being seen as a sinless co-redeemer and queen of heaven is not even slightly hinted to in the original gospel message, as told through the Bible. He asked her to read the gospels and find out for herself. Her response was to express her concern that her son was on the highway to hell.

A similar situation happened to another Christ-follower friend of mine (an American) whose mother was fearful about having apparently one less person who would pray for her through purgatory after she dies. Upon hearing her daughter had joined a different church, her response was, “How am I going to get to heaven if you won’t pray for me?” I’ve heard stories exactly like that from an alarming number of kids and grandchildren.

Another Italian student we talked to said that if she were to become “a Protestant,” her parents would very likely disown her. Seriously.

More educated Catholics may step in to argue here, claiming this isn’t what Catholicism teaches. But even if that were sometimes true, this is the belief that is commonly picked up when services and doctrines are performed with a veil of confusion where honest questions and transparency are not valued. In my opinion, this scenario is far too common to ignore any longer. Whether it’s a teaching issue or a belief issue doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a very big issue and many people are believing something that is not just unbiblical, but anti-biblical. It’s a problem when the people in a specific religious system who ask questions and want something genuine and personal about their faith are the same people who often give up and embrace atheism. They would rather believe in nothing if God is really like what they hear about in the Catholic Church. I’d say that’s a red flag.

You might say this is only Roman Catholicism, but modern and western Catholicism, even with its watered-down doctrines, is based on the same extra-biblical teachings of the Vatican. Bad arithmetic with a little bit of “better” arithmetic still gives incorrect answers.

Please don’t get me wrong: other denominations of Christian churches are also guilty of false teaching and unnecessary doctrines. But in my opinion, the members of those churches have a better shot at learning what Jesus actually taught. To them, or at least most of them, the concept of a personal Bible study is an active part of what their church values and encourages. From what I gather from former Catholics, that’s not the case in the Catholic Church.

It really comes down to this: the gospel was meant to be so simple. It was meant to do away with the tally keeping, reliance on priests, and memorized chants with a personal relationship with God Himself.

I completely understand and am glad that there are some who practice Catholicism and are enjoying what seems to be a healthy, close relationship with God through Jesus. If that’s you, then that is absolutely fantastic, and I am excited to call you a brother or sister in Christ. I’m just curious how much of the Catholic doctrine you really utilized to achieve that relationship. Was it the one hundredth rehearsal of the Hail Mary prayer that did it? Or could it have been the Holy Spirit personally leading you to have a simple faith in what Jesus achieved on the cross? I wonder where your assurance of salvation comes from. Is it your family’s promise to pray for you long enough after your funeral? Or could it have been something you read straight from the Bible– something about Jesus never letting anything take us out of His hands (John 10:28)? Or maybe later from Paul, where he says no powers of hell or schemes of man can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:39)?

I’m not seeing how anyone who upholds the Bible as the historical foundation of our faith can claim the doctrines of Catholicism necessary. The list of purely Catholic practices is a long one.

  • Treating the mother of Jesus as a life-long, sinless virgin (I’ve yet to meet any Catholic who has an answer for Matthew 1:25 where is says that Joseph didn’t consummate his marriage with Mary until Jesus was born. Still consummated. Mary and Joseph had sex.)
  • Praying to specific Christ followers who have died
  • Praying for dead people
  • Confessing only to a priest
  • Indulgences
  • Dress code for priests and other clergy
  • Worship of icons and statues
  • Holy water and in some cases, candles
  • Confirmation
  • And I could go on…

I don’t see any of these practices backed up with Jesus’ original teaching. It’s almost like Jesus knew that doctrines like this would end up distracting the people who practice them from the simple, powerful act of Himself on the cross. The faith He calls us to have in Him alone is what leads to a direct connection with our Creator. No saintly intercessors or co-redeemers needed. No memorized prayers and no amount of repeating them makes a difference.

I understand that these practices are grounded in a certain reverence and respect that, in some cases, is loosely rooted in scripture. They often sound and look beautiful, which is great. I’m just also pointing out that, based on what I’ve seen all around the world, these respectful practices have become a massive distraction. People don’t understand where they’re supposed to fit into the gospel and they are massively confused about what the main point is. Some might understand perfectly; most don’t. And even for those who do understand, the explanations don’t match up well enough for my liking. For example, there’s just too much “if, then” connecting the dots that has to take place to tell someone why it’s okay to view Mary the way the Catholic Church does when Jesus never referenced her apparent holiness. Her name never appears in the Bible after the first chapter of Acts, indicating she was not meaningfully involved in the early church. And to say she is the queen of heaven because Revelation talks about a woman with a crown is to say that the entire book isn’t full of illustrative metaphors. If that’s how the Catholic Church interprets John’s writing, then they should be waiting for a literal dragon as well.

I think it’s a problem that one of the most common characteristics of Catholic believers worldwide is their habit of not reading the Bible for themselves. It’s worshiped, but rarely opened. I probably can’t say this enough: I know that this doesn’t describe all Catholics. But for an organization that is supposed to be rooted in the Bible’s teaching, it’s extremely alarming that it doesn’t encourage personal study. But it’s also convenient, if we’re honest. When no one is reading what you claim to be your inspiration, there’s no accountability.

Accountability is an entirely different issue in the Catholic Church, which I have neither the energy nor stomach to get into.

Catholicism is ancient– I get that. And while that is very respectable, I think that partially explains why it’s become so confusing. You see, when the Catholic Church was founded, books were not so easy to come by. Back then, the Bible was still being collected and inspired, even though the individual books and letters that would later comprise the New Testament had each been written. They were circulated through the church within two generations of Jesus’ death (by conservative estimates).

The machine printing press wasn’t invented until the 1400s (more on that in a moment), but that means there were about 1,300 years of religious teaching to populations that didn’t have uncontrolled access to the scriptures. Handwritten Bibles were far too expensive for commoners to afford, so the church was the rightful source of understanding when it came to the historic gospel story. But while the text of the Bible remained the same through those 1,300 years (thankfully we can prove this), there was little the common follower could do to see where the doctrines they were hearing about were coming from. Purgatory rules, hail Marys, indulgences, and other doctrines couldn’t be questioned, especially when the teachings of the church and its leaders were declared “infallible.”

The church undeniably grew, increasing in wealth and influence. To this day, the Catholic Church is the wealthiest organization on the planet. Early on, no one understood that this explosion of wealth was a direct result of the extra-biblical teachings it was “infallibly” handing out. But then the printing press was invented in 1439 by a German named Johannes Gutenberg. What was a massive win for literacy rates and Bible ownership was a direct threat to the Catholic Church’s doctrines. Newly educated and naturally curious people like Martin Luther were bound to express concern. Luther was also from Germany and was born less than 50 years after the printing press was invented. In other words, the fallacies were recognized within a single generation of the common population learning to read and having direct access to the original accounts of what Jesus taught. And to this day, the Protestant Reformation is seen by the Catholic Church as an evil plot to destroy God’s “infallible” truth. And faith from a Catholic standpoint still doesn’t seem to be holding up well among the young generations during our current age of information and verifiable education.

In my view, Luther’s Protestant Reformation was only trying to return the faith to the simplicity that it was originally intended to be characterized by. For Luther, it wasn’t about Protestantism or Catholicism. It was about trying our best to keep with the fundamentals. Jesus had a way of clearly revealing the priorities and practices that were most important–sometimes uncomfortably so. We can therefore trust that if there was a new teaching that was important for us to know (like Mary, saintly intercession, or purgatory), Jesus would have mentioned it. But as it is, there isn’t a single parable or reference to “the mother of the church” or any others, neither from Jesus nor the early church founders.

I have a hard time believing that Jesus intended to only give us some of the important things about gaining a relationship with God, and left us to connect the dots for ourselves about the other important stuff. Personally, I think Jesus did a good enough job at giving us what we needed to know.

Do we still fail at teaching the simplicity of the basic message? Absolutely. No church is perfect–I can’t say that enough. But it’s not accurate to say that all churches are equally imperfect. Not when you have a measuring stick of sorts with the use of (original) biblical scripture. I don’t think it’s an effective strategy to paint all Christianity as the same for the sake of getting along, despite any differences in fundamental belief. It’s fundamental belief that defines what Christianity is in the first place. So if those beliefs aren’t on the same page, then that’s a problem and it warrants correction. And that starts with calling it out, just like Jesus called out the different churches for skewed theology in Revelation 2 and 3. Correct theology, especially on the basics, matters to Christ. It should also matter to us.

Rule following is no different than the Mosaic Law, which God sent Jesus to complete by giving a bridge into lasting relationship with Him through faith.

The Catholic Church’s teachings were far removed from what the Bible says by the time of the Protestant Reformation, but it had already become the most powerful, wealthiest organization on the planet. They’ve done so much good for so many people in terms of a charitable perspective– no one can deny that. But we can also be assured that, at the time of Luther’s questioning, the governing body of the Catholic Church was extremely satisfied with the system exactly as it was because they were living on par with royalty. Why would they want anything to change? Why wouldn’t they do whatever necessary to protect it? They had an opportunity to get back on track with the simplicity that Jesus taught, and they let it pass them by because it would cost them too much. To me, that sounds too much like the Pharisees that Jesus was always at odds with. They were wealthy from the system as it was and enjoyed economic and political influence. What motivation did they have to knock over the structure that was putting them higher than everyone else?

I can imagine the sense of panic in church leaders when people began to grow more educated and start to ask reasonable questions and seek the answers for themselves from scripture. There was no longer a constant dependence upon the church organization for finding out how their sins could be justified with God. People began to realize that church wasn’t the place where they had to go and have a priest help them empty their sin buckets each week– it was actually where they could go to celebrate the fact that Jesus had destroyed their sin bucket altogether. It was where they could go to learn how to let their lives and relationships be constantly and progressively transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The system of never-ending reliance on rehearsed or interceded prayers and atoning monetary payments wouldn’t survive if the Catholic Church began encouraging people to read the now-readily-available Bible. If they did, I believe people would understand their relationship and standing with God isn’t enhanced by memorized prayers or how many tickets to heaven they purchased– for themselves or for their loved ones.

I met an agnostic anthropologist in Italy, and I know she would agree with me on this next point. Mankind is, at least in part, defined by our inherent and generally unavoidable ability to corrupt and destroy things. That’s why it’s so encouraging that the gospel story was recorded within one generation of Jesus’ death. Even more encouraging are how the ancient copies we’ve found are so closely identical to the versions in the Bible today. Thankfully, it’s been protected from corruption, even while the Catholic Church wasn’t.

I understand that Jesus wasn’t handing out Bibles and telling people “Read this and you’ll know everything you need to know.” That’s ridiculous. But what the Bible is, at its core, is a careful compilation of the teachings of Jesus and what He upheld as truth. These basic ideas have been added onto the Old Testament, which Jesus completed and fulfilled. The Bible that we have today is the message that the very first Christ followers believed and what they taught to the early church, even before the books of the New Testament were written.

There’s a major, very fundamental flaw when the first threat to someone’s Catholic faith is simply to open the Bible and read what their own Catholic leaders claim to be teaching from. God forbid they start to pray what’s on their heart to talk to God about, or Google a tough but logical spiritual question about something they don’t understand.

I know and have spoken to far too many people who have chosen atheism after being raised Catholic. I have extended family members who are among this crowd. And I can’t say that I really blame them. If the only concept of God that I knew was from Catholic teaching, I think I would have agreed with them in thinking that God is a ridiculous concept. What’s genuine or even remotely spiritual about purchasing, performing, or repetitively speaking my way into right standing with God? Everything about that system screams “man-made” and “fabricated” to me as well, especially when you see the result of where all the money has gone. It takes a serious cash flow to run your own mini country.

To be fair, and please hear me on this: I completely agree that every religion has a large group of people who claim to be a part of it without actually having a clue of what it teaches. Read that sentence again if you missed it. I get it. Acting on real faith is an intention that few genuinely have, regardless of what religion they claim. I’m not saying that you cannot be a Catholic and a true Christian. I’m just saying that it is definitely not an automatic assumption. In the same way, some “Christians” aren’t even true Christians. I agree with that, although only God knows who will be saved and who will remain lost.

There are plenty who state belief and few who take it seriously, living as if it’s true. But I’m not arguing about whether or not there are real Catholics and fake Catholics. The question is whether or not what they believe and practice is relevant to the Bible, or even necessary. And for the record, the extra-biblical doctrines from other churches bother me all the same. To act as though being a Christ follower is about anything more than loving God and others is unbiblical. The only doctrine He taught was genuine love, which naturally spurs us to obedience and worship. And in that, we should all be united as Christ followers.

Faith is a must have for anyone who believes in God. Without it, God is a hoax. More on that next week when I address a couple of the most common atheist arguments I heard from the students in Milan.

There was a glimmer of hope, which I think is a good place to finish my rant. I was relieved to see some students interested in reading the Bible for themselves once I explained that much of what the Catholic Church teaches about who God is or what is required for salvation is not actually found in the Bible. All I needed to do was encourage them to read it for themselves, knowing that it’s one of the most accepted and reliable historical documents of human antiquity. That fact in itself is verifiable through research. It’s liberating to know that evangelism can sometimes be as simple as recommending someone to look at the source of it all for themselves, trusting that my additional commentary is unnecessary. As questions come up, then sure, conversations can be had. But it has to start with them seeking Jesus as He was sought in the beginning.


8 thoughts on “Catholic confusion

  1. The author clearly has some unfortunately valid concerns. For instance, all too many Catholics are ignorant of the Catholic faith, Scripture, and the graces that flow through the Church. He also has a great many misconceptions about Catholics and Catholicism. Neither issue serves truth well.

    One thing I noticed in reading this is how wrong Jesus must have been to form His Church when and how He did. Jesus never established His Church solely on the Protestant Bible. How did He get this essential precept of Protestantism wrong. Jesus came at a time when literacy rates were low. His Church (of which He is head) was formed at a time when people were not expected by Christ to read the Scriptures for themselves. Didn’t Jesus know that the only true way to follow Jesus was by personally reading and interpreting the Protestant Bible? Why didn’t Jesus just invent the printing press and tell the Apostles to hand out copies of the Bible to everyone so they could read it for themselves, just like modern Protestants do?

    Jesus was a horrible Protestant. Jesus taught from books of the Old Testament that Protestantism rejects or denounces.

  2. I too agree with Raymond, that there are indeed many Catholics who are ignorant of the Catholic faith, scripture, and many other issues. This is true among any faith that they don’t know their faith or any of the precepts.

    You bring up “Catholic Doctrine”….many of the points that you bring up are not doctrinal, but definitely have it’s roots in Scripture and Tradition:

    Praying to specific Christ followers who have died/Praying for dead people- We would call this intercessory prayer or asking the Saints to pray for us. I’ll break this down in two ways for the sake of longevity. Mk 12:26-27… “not God of the dead, but of the living…” 1 Cor 12:25-27; Rom 12:4-5… body of Christ. Eph 6:18; Rom 15:30; Col 4:3; 2 Thess 1:11 … intercessory prayer. Jos 5:14; Dan 8:17; Tob 12:16 … veneration of angels united with God (Mt 18:10). 1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2 …saints also united with God. Lk 20:34-38 … those who died are like angels. 2 Mac 15:11-16 … deceased Onias and Jeremiah interceded for Jews. Rev 8:3-4; Jer 15:1 … saints’ intercession. Jn 15:5 …Unity of all Christians.;1 Cor 10:17 …we who are;many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.;Eph 2:19 …but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. Rom 15:30 …strive together with me in prayer…

    Catholics are praying to the saints not as to worship them but asking for their prayer (intercessory prayer) as they are closer to God than we are as they are in heaven. I know from your travels specifically that you have been around groups that have asked for specific people who have a unique gift on intercessory prayer, what’s the difference in asking someone, say your friend, to pray for you? If you feel that you can only pray to God why ask someone else to pray for you?

    Treating the mother of Jesus as a life-long sinless virgin- Lk 1:27 …to a virgin betrothed to a man…”
    Mt 1:23 …Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son…Mt 1:25 …but knew her not until she had borne a son…Lk 1:34 …how can this be since I do not know man…

    Confessing only to a priest and, in the process, calling him “Father”- Confession: Ex 32:20, Num 14:19-23, Jn 20:23, Acts 19:18, 2 Cor 2:6-11, Jas 5:16
    Call no man “Father” : Acts 7:2 …And Stephen said, Brethren and Fathers. Rom 4:16 … to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all. 1 Cor. 4:15 … for I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel. Heb 12:9 …besides this, we have had earthly fathers…

    Selling indulgences- while the Church did go through a dark period because she is made of men, the Church did come forward and apologize for this and set the record straight.

    Worship of icons and statues- Ex 25:18-22, 26:1,31; Num 21:8-9… God commands images made. 1 Kg 6:23-29, 35, 7:29 …Solomon’s temple: statues and images. Acts 19:11,12 … Paul’s handkerchiefs and aprons. 2 Kg 13:20-21 … Elisha’s bones. Acts 5:15-16 … Peter’s shadow. Mt 9:20-22 … Jesus’ garment cures woman. Ex 20:4-5…God prohibits worshiping statues. Ex 25: 18-19; Num 21:8, Jn 3:14-15; 1 Kg 7:27-29… God does not prohibit image making. Paintings, statues, religious artwork is not made with the intention of being worshipped, but with the intention of it pointing to God and heaven. We can look back in history during the Iconoclastic controversy, while in some circumstances there was a problem, people did not worship them, it allowed/still allows people to go deeper in prayer.

    Confirmation- Acts 8:14-19, Acts 19:1-6, 2 Cor 1:21-22

    Hebrews 6:2 is especially important because it is not a narrative account of how confirmation was given and, thus, cannot be dismissed by those who reject the sacrament as something unique to the apostolic age. In fact, the passage refers to confirmation as one of Christianity’s basic teachings, which is to be expected since confirmation, like baptism, is a sacrament of initiation into the Christian life.

    We read: “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:1–2).

    Notice how in this passage we are walked through the successive stages of the Christian journey—repentance, faith, baptism, confirmation, resurrection, and judgment. This passage encapsulates the Christian’s journey toward heaven and gives what theologians call the order of salvation or the ordo salutis. It well qualifies as “the elementary teachings” of the Christian faith.

    The laying on of hands mentioned in the passage must be confirmation: The other kinds of the imposition of hands (for ordination and for healing) are not done to each and every Christian and scarcely qualify as part of the order of salvation. (

    Early Church Fathers:


    “After coming from the place of washing we are thoroughly anointed with a blessed unction, from the ancient discipline by which [those] in the priesthood . . . were accustomed to be anointed with a horn of oil, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. . . . So also with us, the unction runs on the body and profits us spiritually, in the same way that baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged in water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from sins. After this, the hand is imposed for a blessing, invoking and inviting the Holy Spirit” (Baptism 7:1–2, 8:1 [A.D. 203]).

    “No soul whatever is able to obtain salvation unless it has believed while it was in the flesh. Indeed, the flesh is the hinge of salvation. . . . The flesh, then, is washed [baptism] so that the soul may be made clean. The flesh is anointed so that the soul may be dedicated to holiness. The flesh is signed so that the soul may be fortified. The flesh is shaded by the imposition of hands [confirmation] so that the soul may be illuminated by the Spirit. The flesh feeds on the body and blood of Christ [the Eucharist] so that the soul too may feed on God. They cannot, then, be separated in their reward, when they are united in their works” (The Resurrection of the Dead 8:2–3 [A.D. 210]).

    Theophilus of Antioch

    “Are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? It is on this account that we are called Christians: because we are anointed with the oil of God” (To Autolycus 1:12 [A.D. 181]).

    While I’m sure you still have your “laundry list” I know there is sound reason and Truth for what the Church teaches and proclaims.

  3. Jeff, man that’s a really good point you make about having other believers pray for us as a form of intercession. But I’m not sure that explains why there are statues, framed pictures, jewelry charms and special memorized prayers for specific saints that we never knew personally. If I know that my prayers are more effective when two or more are gathered in His name, then I would naturally want as many people to pray for me (and WITH me) as possible. But the thing is that I’m still approaching God directly myself, even as that is happening.

    As for the images, it’s one thing to commemorate something God has done or a person who did an amazing thing through their faith in God. But when that image, or statue, or whatever it is, is given divine power, there’s a problem.

    I agree that Mary as a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth. But I also know that Jesus had half-brothers. I also know that the last time Mary is referred to in all of scripture is in Acts 1… right when the entire explanation of what to do with and how to apply all of what Jesus taught and what his ministry meant for our lives. Mary had no role in that explanation. She is mentioned a total of like seven places in the Bible, and never in any specific detail other than she is blessed by God, was favored by God, and that the fruit of her womb (Jesus) would be blessed. I would say that I am blessed by and favored by God as well, and so are all believers that God has given faith to.

    A lot of what you argued against are legitimate inferences if you really get into the nitty-gritty. I guess the danger I recognize is the massive pomp and circumstance that many of these (honestly) unnecessary doctrines have within the Catholic Church. The rituals are celebrated yet hardly understood while a personal relationship directly with God is hardly spoken of. What’s taught is ritual, repetition, and complete reliance on an an ancient system that hardly anyone understands. They do it because “it’s how the Church has done it for a thousand years.” They actually respect the ancient nature of the motions they’re going through. But few understand what the motions are for, or why they’re necessary, or how they fit into what Jesus taught.

    A lot of other things you talk about can mean so many different things. The laying on of hands, for instance. That’s something we do to bless people, to affirm a new direction they are taking in their life, and to heal them. Confession can be just as powerful when it’s done to any fellow believer.

    So much of it just doesn’t seem necessary and the way it’s regarded has years and years (rightly so) of added rules and thoughts and maybes added to it because everything the church taught was declared “infallible.”

    Jeff, you are a brother in Christ. Of that I am confident. But what it comes back down to is something I shared in the article. Did you arrive at your personal relationship with God through a doctrine of the Catholic Church, or something directly related to what Jesus promised, which we read about in scripture? Are you forgiven of your sins because of how many Our Fathers and Hail Marys you recite, or because Jesus was crucified on the cross? I know we are united on these issues. So the question is if none of the pomp and circumstance is necessary, why celebrate it?

    The explanation for why we do anything for God shouldn’t start with a scripture but then have an explanation for what that must mean and how that warrants a different action that is not explicitly talked about in the original passage. Jesus meant to do away with all of that fluff and confusing, often-empty rituals. He was so simple in the way He taught, speaking directly to what was most important. I don’t think His intention was to give us half of the answer of what to do or how to be forgiven and then leave it up to our own interpretation to figure out the rest. What He wanted us to do, He explicitly and simply told us.

    Thanks for the comment. Great to hear from you.

  4. Kyle-

    I grew Catholic. Catholic grade school. All-girls Catholic high school. My family is still predominately Catholic. My father even preaches from the pulpit as a ordained deacon. What I can say is this, I don’t understand all the doctrine of the “organized church.” But, there are plenty of Catholics that do read the “Catholic Bible.” It does differ a bit than the protestant Bible, it actually has more books. There are plenty of Catholics that do believe that their actions, no matter how ritualistic they seem to outsiders, are genuine to them.

    As protestants we profess that it is about the heart. So, as you talk to Catholics,( and all people who profess Christianity) you need to look at the heart. For if we look at the non-essentials of all religions, we all have idols. It just looks different to everyone.

    I also know based upon my experience that Catholics do teach a relationship, it just looks different to Baptists, because of the unfamiliarity. I actually was “saved” (baptist terminology) at a Catholic
    TEC. Teens Encounter Christ. (Die day, Rise day, Go day) Die to self, rise with Christ and Go tell the world.

    This I do know is true… Catholic theology, in the midst of all the peripherals that you have questioned, still believes in what really matters. To have faith in Christ and believe in the death, resurrection and salvation that Christ offers.

    Truth be told, their whole liturgical service when truly practiced is quite reverent and beautiful. And although, I don’t believe that the body and blood is changed into Christ during the service, we baptists can learn a lot about the reference and respect that the Catholics give to God during the celebration of the mass.

    The other thing is that when Christians get caught up in arguing about theology when the important doctrines are the same, I think back to this; especially this Holy/Good Friday. Christ was crucified on the cross and God saved the thief on the cross next to Him. That thief didn’t have time to know everything about Christ – how to act- the doctrines of the religion-how to practice them correctly. What he did have was FAITH. And I am very sure that “Practicing” Catholics have faith in Jesus.

    Happy Easter,
    Tell the folks at FOTP hi!

    • Bridget,
      Thank you. This was nice to read.
      Yes, of course we read our Bibles, just as you said. In fact, a great Catholic Saint taught “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ”. This teaching has been part of the Catholic Church for more than sixteen centuries. The Catholic Church completed the Bible, authoritatively canonized the Bible, reads the Bible, and loves the Bible.

      You are also correct about our canon of the Bible. We have always embraced all the books of Scripture that Jesus taught. We never removed any of Christ’s teachings from our Bible.

      You are also right to indicate that we are organized. Another way of saying it (which goes back centuries) is that the Catholic Church is “ordered”. Everything G-d creates is ordered. The universe, nature, physics, the Church… everything from G-d is organized, or ordered. It is good that Christ’s Church is organized.

      Faithful Catholics definitely have a relationship with Jesus. I always had a relationship with G-d, the Father growing up (not Christian). But, once learned of Jesus, I began to fall in love. The more I did so, the more closely I came to the Catholic Church. Relationships are ritualistic. The lover doesn’t love because of the rituals. Rather, the lover loves, and the rituals spring forth. The Catholic Church, as the result of our relationship with our savior, has many rituals. Some are for all, like attending Mass on Sundays, while others are optional, like praying the Stations of the Cross.

      I do have a question though. Twice you mention essentials/non-essentials of religion. Do all Protestant communities agree on what is essential and what is non-essential? How is this protected. For instance, if a Protestant pastor, reading the Bible, personally interpreted passages that lead him to believe that Jesus is the embodiment of an angel, and “son of G-d” was somewhat metaphoric, is that ok? Is he still embracing and teaching all the essentials of Protestantism?

  5. Kyle,
    There are statues, charms, pictures, etc for the same reason people look for the intercession of the saints as a reminder of how that person lived their life in Christ. There have been thousands of Saints canonized by the Church. We look to the Saints as role models. Maybe there was something in the story that a person connects to, the struggles they went through make it easier for a person to identify with, whatever the case might be how a person is drawn to a particular Saint, it’s how they see that particular person and how they lived their life in Christ. That’s the reason there are charms, statues, etc simply as a reminder. Another way to look at is it if you have a picture of a loved one in your wallet or on your desk, why have that picture around? You could claim that is idolatry of having that image. You have that picture as a reminder of that person and it’s the same with the saints.

    When you talk about an image that’s given divine power, you must explain? I’m not sure of any statues or anything else being elevated to divine status. If you are referring to healing through various holy sites that’s something different, I suggest you look deeply in to Lourdes and how they identify how a person is truly healed. In short, they have a panel of doctors who investigate thoroughly and many of those doctors are not Christians as not to be biased and have a reason to try and discount the miracle.

    Mary was a perpetual virgin her whole life:
    1. The Meaning of Brother The first thing to understand is that the term brother (Gk. adelphos) has a broader meaning than uterine brothers. It can mean a biological brother, but it can also mean an extended relative, or even a spiritual brother. Take Genesis 13:8 for example. Here the word brother is being used to describe the relationship between Abraham and Lot, who were not biological brothers but uncle and nephew:
    “So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers” (Gen 13:8, NIV; see also 14:12). Because of the Bible’s broad semantic range of “brother,” we can rest assured that although St. Paul writes, “[Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred…brothers at the same time” (1 Cor. 15:6), we need not infer from this verse that Mary gave birth to more than 500 children!

    2. Children of Mary?
    These “brothers” are never once called the children of Mary, although Jesus himself is (John 2:1; Acts 1:14).
    3. Other Women Named Mary
    James and Joseph (also called Joses), who are called Jesus’ “brothers” (Mark 6:3) are indeed the children of Mary—Just not Mary, the mother of Jesus. After St. Matthew’s account of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, he writes:

    “There were also many women there, looking on from afar, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him; among who were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.” (Matt. 27:56; see also Mark 15:40).

    4. Consensus of the Early Church
    The earliest explanation of the “brothers” of the Lord is found in a document known as the Protoevangelium of James, which was written around A.D. 150. It speaks of Mary as a consecrated virgin since her youth, and of St. Joseph as an elderly widower with children who was chosen to be Mary’s spouse for the purposes of guarding and protecting her while respecting her vow of virginity. Though this document is not on the level of Sacred Scripture, it was written very early, and it may contain accurate historical traditions.

    Three quotes from the early Church:

    Athanasius of Alexandria
    “Therefore let those who deny that the Son is from the Father by nature and proper to his essence deny also that he took true human flesh of Mary Ever-Virgin [Four Discourses Against the Arians 2:70 (c. A.D. 360)].

    St. Jerome- “You say that Mary did not continue a virgin: I claim still more that Joseph himself, on account of Mary was a virgin, so that from a virgin wedlock a virgin son was born [Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary 21 (A.D. 383)].

    Pope St. Leo I “The origin is different but the nature alike: not by intercourse with man but by the power of God was it brought about: for a Virgin conceived, a Virgin bore, and a Virgin she remained [Sermons 22:2 (A.D. 450)].

    Thus the same Church today affirm: Jesus is Mary’s only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: “The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother’s love (Catechism of the Catholic Church 501).

    Do you not think Mary plays a significant role in our salvation history? Looking to the Gospel of Luke, where the Hail, Mary prayer comes from we can see the importance that Mary plays in all of our lives, yes even yours. This can be broken down more, but I’ll say one thing briefly to this is that; we have the Angel Gabriel coming to Mary and says “Hail, highly favored one”…now for an angel to say this is quite baffling because Angels are a superior being so for an angel to give this honor to her, that must mean something…right? We can talk more on Mariology later.

    To be frank, all these “wrong” claims your bring about are all the same claims that many protestants before you have struggled with and don’t understand and often spend their whole life misunderstanding because they don’t spend the time doing proper research. I know several Catholic theologians who were very militant anti-Catholic and their mission was to disprove the Church and Catholicism and you know what happened….they became Catholic. I could send you some info about these theologians if you want to hear their story, but only if you will have an open mind to what is being said.

    The rituals that you speak of must be broken down as what you mean. As your friend stated in an earlier post about the Mass, the Mass is the ultimate form of worship and prayer. The Mass has been celebrated since the Last Supper. Something to note on the Mass is that it is filled with Scripture.
    I’m guess you are going on the notion that we cannot use repetitive prayer because it says not to in the Bible, but Jesus prays the same prayer multiple times for instance when he is in the Garden before he is turned over to be crucified. I’m going to air on the side, if Jesus can pray a prayer multiple times I’d say it’s ok. Even more so the repetitive prayers, say the Hail, Mary and the Rosary again all reflect back on Christ. The Rosary is a prayer looking at the Life of Christ through the eyes of Mary, as she is his mother, the mother of God.

    Going through the motions is not only a problem within the Catholic Church it’s found in every other church in the world. You have been who go to church for 1 hour a week and as soon as they step foot outside the church they are totally different and not in a good way. As a youth minister who works with high schoolers that’s what I try and do is teach the teens the richness of our faith and explain to them the significance and the importance of what we are doing, so they don’t get lost in the motions.

    I’ll post a response on Confirmation and Confession later as it will have quite a bit of info.

    As far as my relationship with Christ it’s a constant battle, but I try everyday to grow closer to Him. I didn’t “Arrive” at my relationship through Christ through reading what you call “doctrine” and I don’t know of anyone who read a document and found Christ, but I won’t discount. The reason I won’t discount that is because what if someone is reading something and it leads them to Christ, is that not a possibility? Does a personal relationship with Christ have to come only through scripture? What about if someone is part of God’s creation? Or has a friend that leads them to Christ? There are many reasons. I am forgiven by my sins because of Jesus, but I find forgiveness through the sacrament of Confession. Catholics are forgiven by the priest but by Jesus through the priest. Praying a Hail, Mary or Our Father are penitential and are also in thanksgiving for God’s great love and mercy. Also it can’t just be for Jesus dying on the cross it has to be the Resurrection, if Jesus simply died on the cross what would that mean. Jesus defeated death by dying and then Rising.

    To your last paragraph, I’ll say: why do it? Because Jesus told us to. We celebrate Mass because Jesus told us to at the Last Supper and we see that through the NT and the Epistles. You’re right Jesus didn’t leave it up to use to our own interpretation, that’s why he founded a Church. That Church, comprised of men, guided by the Holy Spirit gives us an authority on Scripture.

    Happy Easter my friend and as I said earlier in the post I’d be happy to send you some resources if you are open to reading and listening. Let me know.

    • I’m down to read anything you send my way. Always open to learning more about where different backgrounds are coming from. Hope you had a Happy Easter, brother! And I’m glad that your ministry is involved with providing clear instruction on the “whys” that is easy to understand. One of the main purposes of this article is to explain that, while I’m so happy there are Christ followers like you in the Catholic Church, the doctrines very often have become lost in their meanings. Based on your comments and a few others, I’ve added a couple things to the article. Thank you for your insight! I’ll likely make even more edits before including this in a compilation book I plan to publish/print later in the year. When it comes to this topic, I really appreciate having as much information as possible and I will be happy to make concessions on certain arguments if I recognize they should be made (based on how I understand them, at least).

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