Monday, June 30, 2008

3 objections to the Church

So I just had a conversation with a friend online about a Protestant who was questioning her about Confession. It can be tough as a Catholic since you basically always get questions from everyone about everything. The Church is the most misunderstood and hated institution on the planet. In my eyes, there are really three groups that attack the Church and her faith in subsequent levels. First, there is the skeptic.  Academic atheists as well as  your typical "skeptic" on campus all question the foundational truths of the Christian faith in general. A secularist does not accept the authority of Revelation, nor accept the miraculous nature of Christ's earthly ministry, and often will even question the mere existence of God. The assertive notion that the Catholic Church proclaims THE truth (Gasp! The evil "T" word!) strikes many as arrogant and offensive in our politically-correct society. Protestants, on the other hand, accept Revelation and the primary realities of God's existence, though attack the Church on the contents and implications of this Revelation. The irony here is that Protestants rely on the Church even for their foundational beliefs that they share in common with us. Protestants believe in the Trinity, but where did this faith come from? Its not explicit in the Bible, but came from a Church Council in the 4th century. Even the Bible itself is a product of the Church. There is no "table of contents" hidden in Leviticus 32 or on page 952 in the Scriptures. The cannon of Scripture too comes from a Church Council. This is a difficult fact for those Christians who hold to a "Bible only" formula of faith to explain away. 
Thirdly, there are un-orthodox Catholics within the Church who attack her. They accept the reality of God that a secularist denies and the reality of a visibly established Church (usually, that is) that a protestant denies, but attack some of the finer points of the Church's doctrine. They are, in effect, protestants who go to Mass and have labeled themselves as Catholics. I can think of Hans Kung, Richard McBrian and those who are members of "Call to Action" and other leftist groups in the Church. They pay lip service to the reality of the Church's divine nature, but deny it in their attacks on her infallible doctrines. 
These three groups, secularists, anti-Catholic protestants, and heterorthodox Catholics all present a challenge to the faith of the Church. Of course, there is an answer to all of their objections, but they are voices crying out to Catholics less informed about their faith. And this brings me to my point. Many people that we come across on campus or in the workplace are one or another of these groups. Each needs to be shown the love of Jesus Christ and treated with respect and compassion. Yet their arguments need to be met clearly and directly, albeit using different means. The secularist often needs philosophical and logical reasons for accepting the validity of a theistic worldview. Using Bible verses when talking to a non-Christian will not get you very far, despite what Bible-man in front of the Oregon State library may think. Similarly, a protestant needs to hear the clear Scriptural foundations of Catholic belief above all else. Each needs a different approach to effectively stir the heart to conversion. 
This is what St. Paul means when he calls us as believers to be "all things to all men". Speak in the language of a feminist to the feminist, as a protestant to the protestant, as a hippie to the hippie, etc. Each person brings a unique perspective in their questions to the Faith. The Church has not only the answer to every objection, but on an even deeper level, the answer to every need of the human heart. It is important to present the Faith in beautiful clarity and charitable sincerity to all who may come to us with objections or questions to the Church. We should welcome these questions, not be afraid of them or be defensive in their midst. 
"There are not one-hundred men who hate the Catholic Church for what it really is, but millions who hate it for what they think it is"

--Ryan Purcell