Thursday, June 17, 2010
How I Am Not A Catholic - Part Four
Okay, finally I'm back to this series! Let's continue:
So now I'm curious to learn more about Catholicism and my sister starts dating a Catholic. This was good timing. In the Fall of 2004 Jackie began going to RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation before becoming a Catholic). I had seriously considered going along with her just to learn more about Catholicism. It didn't really work with my school and work schedule so that fell through.
But now Jackie was learning a lot and reading from the Catechism and I began asking questions of her and Conor. These questions just kept snowballing and I learned more and more, wiping away many misconceptions I had. Also at CBC I had been learning more about Catholicism from a fresh perspective.
These are the main questions I wrestled with and a summary of the answers I received.
What exactly is purgatory? How can you believe people have the option to leave hell?
I always thought purgatory was a ticket out of hell. If you prayed for the dead or did penance or whatever, you could get yourself or your relatives out of hell. Turns out I was wrong. Purgatory is not a part of hell. It is actually for Christians. It is the next stage before entrance into heaven. Catholics believe you cannot enter into heaven until you have been fully purged of your sinful acts. It's not a place where you "earn" your way into heaven. It's the process you go through to be cleansed.
It's funny that Protestants are so against purgatory, because (whether they know it or not) they believe in an instantaneous purgatory. All Protestants believe we are cleansed before entering heaven. Catholics just believe it takes a little longer.
Praying to the Saints
How do you justify praying to the saints? The Bible says we shouldn't communicate with the dead.
I asked Conor this one and he gave me two answers that were really helpful.
1. Do you ask your friends to pray for you? Yes. Then why not ask the saints to pray for you? Ohhhhh.
2. Why do you think the saints are dead? Oh yeah, I guess they are "alive" in the afterlife.
Why pray to Mary? Do Catholics worship her?
This one I'm still a little fuzzy on, but there's a difference between worship and veneration. Only God should be worshiped. Mary and the saints are venerated. They are held in high regard and devotion is paid to them. But they are not equal to or greater than God.
Regarding prayers to Mary, once again you ask your friends to pray for you, so why not ask Mary, the mother of Jesus, to pray on your behalf? She's also considered the mother of the Catholic Church so yeah, a lot of honour and respect is passed her way.
If my doctrine is not lined up with Catholics, would they say I'm going to hell?
"Of course not!" says Conor, "You are my brother in Christ." I'm not sure I totally understand the theology but I think it has to do with God showing fairness and grace. We are, after all, following after the same God.
Why confess your sins to a Priest for forgiveness when you could go straight to Jesus?
Priests don't actually forgive your sins. Christ forgives your sins. Priests speak the words of forgiveness on Christ's behalf. Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit onto his disciples in John 20:23 and said to them, "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
Confession also provides a great opportunity for healing. I think there is something powerful in hearing someone say "I forgive you". Protestants don't get that. A priest can also offer you advice and comfort. Protestants typically keep their sins private and only confess only to God. This is not healthy. James 5:16 says "Confess your sins, one to another, and you will be healed."
How can the Pope be infallible? He's just a man like everyone else.
I once thought everything the Pope did was without sin according to this doctrine. Not true. The doctrine teaches that the Pope is protected from error by the Holy Spirit when he is solemnly declaring a dogmatic teaching on faith and morals. These dogmas are never spoken at random. They are products of various councils and there are rules and conditions to confirm their infallibility.
Well, those are just a few big ones that stood out to me. I don't have all the answers and don't fully understand all Catholic dogma, but I'm satisfied they are not heretics and that, in fact, we have a lot to learn from their teachings and tradition (and we have a lot to be thankful for because of them). But why am I still not a Catholic????
This Concludes Part Four.