Catholic Minimalism

Am I alone in thinking that our religion is too bloated? I’ve read the the new testament, as well as the Didache, and I can’t help but notice that Catholicism today is far more complicated then in the early days. The catechism is a very thick complicated book, RCIA materials are equally dense, and the Vatican seems to operate more like a bureaucracy than a center of faith. Then we have dogmas, doctrines, Marian cults, good saints, bad saints, feast days, holy days of obligation, Marian apparitions, limbo, no limbo, anti-popes, bad cardinals, abusive nuns, evil priests, and indulgences. I wonder, perhaps if the faith was more straightforward and the governing arm was more streamlined these scandals could not have been so easily covered up. And if our faith were clearer to all, then perhaps the goats within the fold could be more easily recognized and removed from our pasture. Instead these cancers within go on unabated for generations and they become ingrained within the body of the Church and they weaken it. As it is, the only reason I remain a catholic is the Eucharist and I’m just trying to keep forgiveness in my heart and my mind on Christ. It’s a shame that it’s my own religion that often threatens my resolve. Is it possible to be a 1st century Catholic in 2017? :shrug: The idea does appeal to me.

New issues come up and there is no “delete” key for truth. Growth is thus the nature of the beast. But it grows more slowly now, if that comforts you.

To the OP, good post. I feel the same way. Back to the basics is what is needed, and throw out as many dogmas and doctrines as possible along the way! Make the faith manageable.

I have serious doubts that the early Church of the first century was as simplified as you suggest. The Apostles were devout Jews first; there’s a ton of complexity that our faith “inherited”, not to mention all that they were taught (and subsequently practiced) not recorded in Scripture.

First question, so you believe the Holy Spirit has failed to protect and guide the Church?

Second question, which Dogmas would you like to see thrown out?

Those aspects of the Church are necessary for its governance and regulation. The way the INDIVIDUAL practices the faith should ideally be minimalist. Matthew 18:3

1 At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

2 He called a child over, placed it in their midst,

3 and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,* you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

5 And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.

There are many things I’m not required to pay attention to, although I chose to such as Marian Apparitions.

Basically, Mass on Sunday and Holy days. I can read the Bible and do, but we hear it nearly completely if we attend Mass daily. Confession once a year or as needed. Sacraments such as Matrimony are only there if you chose to marry…

Thank God for Reconciliation.

So it’s pretty simple for me. And I still don’t make the minimum sometimes. I fail at that.

I can’t remember but I once heard it said that the Catholic Church is like a river a flea could float upon or which an elephant could drown. (Probably Fr. Apostoli or another priest on EWTN many years ago.)

It varies from person to person.

I think the Holy Spirit projects the core teachings of Christ which still guide the Church. I don’t think He protects the operating procedures of the Church or the way the religion as an organization functions.

And I’m not saying to get rid of any particular dogma. Just make sure the ones that we have are necessary for salvation and are clearly explained “why” they are necessary. Christ’s message was very clear and the Church should reflect that clarity.

Hi Peregrinans:

Good question.

I can’t speak about the need or lack of need of bureaucracy within the Church because I simply don’t know very much of how the Church is structured and operates on a technical & administrative level. I know, for its huge size, there is bound to be at least a modest level of bureaucracy.

But, on to the greater point: it is absolutely essential & good that the Church be as complex as it is in terms of her explanation and defense of the faith. There has been 2,000 years of controversy and challenges leveled against the Church both from within and from without: from multiple heresies in the early centuries, heresies in the middle ages, heresies in the protestant revolt & beyond, heresies in the modernist period, and heresies today. She also has to respond & evangelize to other Christians, materialists, apatheists, agnostics, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, animists, pantheists, and people of Eastern religious traditions. She has to provide answers for her own faithful, who experience sin, struggles, doubts, and suffering as they grow in the faith and learn to love God more deeply.

So, what all this means, is that there is going to be a lot to be said on all of these things, towards different groups of people. The Church has come a long way since her primitive origins in the 1st century, when our first Pope, St Peter, had to be persuaded by St Paul at the Council of Jerusalem to even agree to baptize Gentiles. This was a controversy among other controversies in the early Church, and there have been many controversies ever since then. There were a lot of unknowns in the early Church, and the Holy Spirit had to be extremely active to prevent her from collapsing and vanishing. But, she was never meant to remain primitive. She was meant to grow: bodily, intellectually, and spiritually.

You can always be simple in your own life: quietly obeying & loving God and growing with him, but it’s a big & diverse world and the Church lives in the world and needs to respond to the world, because that’s what Jesus wants.

The Problem with Primitivism - by Father Longenecker

First. We have history.
That means there are many stories of saints and how they tried to live according to Christ’s teachings. Out of the various saints lives have developed various devotions and ways of looking at God and his revealed truth. It’s like taking photos or movies and trying to put them into albums and movie reels. Each saint has experienced God in a unique and personal way, just as we each experience God in a unique and personal way.
Second. God simply cannot be put in a box. When I was about ten, a Dominican priest shared the answer of child about my age to his question, “How big is God? He is so big that the heavens cannot contain Him, and yet so small that He can fit in each of our hearts.”
Third. I describe my faith as a simple Faith. It is summarized in the Nicene Creed.
It is simple, and yet because as already mentioned, it is a lived faith, it’s depths cannot be reached over the course of a lifetime.

Christ taught the Apostles. What He taught we call Tradition. This Tradition has been entrusted to the teaching authority of the Church, the Magisterium, the descendants of the Apostles. Christ is the Word of God sent down from heaven. The Bible is the written word of God. The Magisterium is protected by the Holy Spirit to hand down intact the teachings of Christ as taught to the Apostles. The Church’s understanding rightly grows over time.

As Catholics, we are all members of the Body of Christ. We are the Church with Christ as head. Continue to read scripture. As you read, don’t simply read for information, but allow for transformation. As Catholics the Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith. Begin there.

Do you also decry a big beautiful diamond because of its many facets? It’s the same thing in our most holy faith.

They ARE! Read the CCC!

Before the publication of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, part of my catechist training was on the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
To simplify, the CCC is divided into the four pillars of Catholic teaching.
Part I: The Profession of Faith–Deals with The Nicene Creed and Sacred Revelation.
Part 2: The Celebration of the Christian Mystery–Deals with the Sacraments. “The Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith.”
Part 3: Life in Christ–Deals with the Commandments and the Beatitudes.
Part 4: Christian Prayer.

One of the required classes I took focused on the Our Father. Each class was an hour long, and that hour was still too short to cover all that is contained within the Our Father. I recently read St. Teresa of Avila’s Way of Perfection which contains a treatises of the Our Father. She writes about praying slowly and deliberately, even if that is the only prayer you pray.

The CCC has references to scripture as well as the Fathers of the Church. “The principal task entrusted to [Vatican Council II] by Pope John XXIII was to guard and present better the precious deposit of faith of Christian doctrine in order to make it more accessible to the Christian faithful and to all people of good will.” The faith is always the same. The CCC is meant as a reference text to assist and encourage in the writing of new local catechisms.

The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults is easy to read. It refers back to the CCC, and gives saints as examples for each chapter. There is a misconception by some outside the Church that faith and reason are necessarily separate. It is God who gives us our power to reason. The discussion questions in the The United States Catholic Catechism for Adults are thought provoking.
God does not require literacy in order to be saved. We are not saved by the written word of God, but by the Word incarnate. The first Commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

I didn’t address one main point brought up by the OP. Beginning in the First grade, I was taught the Church was comprised of sinners. There is no perfect human. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Yes, magisterial teaching is protected by the Holy Spirit. We receive in this generation what the Apostles received from directly from Christ. That is what is meant by Tradition. I don’t concern myself with the sins and scandals that befallen the Church from time to time because of human frailty. I have Christ’s promise that the Church will stand.

Simplicity of Religion is the basis of Islam, and it is what attracts so many adherents. Yet even Islam, to those who study it deeply, realize there is bewildering array of beliefs, doctrines and interpretations that have developed over the centuries.

Catholicism was NEVER about simple and easy. Nevertheless, the Church, as Isaiah prophesied, has made it easy even for fools to find Salvation. The average Catholic in the pew has a local priest he can consult on questions of religion, or Catholicism, not to mention the CCC, Sacred Scripture, Vatican Documents etc. etc. So it is up to the individual to wade in as deeply as he wants or needs to. :wink:

I have heard this argument. The Koran was given to one man, Mohamed, an illiterate. It was dictated to him so there and he simply wrote what he was told to write. There are no contradictions.
Contrast that with the Bible which is full of contradictions. Or so it seems on the surface. The Bible was written over the course of centuries. The writers were not mere instruments of dictation, but inspired to write to the audience of their respective times. It contains therefore different literary forms by which God’s truth is revealed.
The Word of God did not come to us in written form. As the Gospel of John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.”

The Word came to us incarnate. I have been to non-Catholic churches that are unaware of the history of the Church. They know about the salvation that comes from the cross. The simplicity of the sermons feeds the congregation solely with milk, and they never get to the meat that allows for continued spiritual development. I hear questions like “Why does the Catholic Church leave Jesus hanging on the Cross?” They know that He rose from the dead, but fall into the trap of cheap grace by not being aware of the true cost. I find it difficult to pray before an empty cross. I know the feeling personal revulsion that leads to embracing my crucified Lord. Jesus came to Thomas with the nail marks in His hands and feet. During catechist training, I learned to add a single word or phrase after the Jesus while praying the rosary. I pray a scriptural rosary, and it is a way to keep my mind focused on the mystery while maintaining the Christocentric nature of the prayer. After saying “and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus taking my cross” for the 4th Sorrowful Mystery, I have felt the cross lifted from my shoulders.

He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. We have the grace of the Sacraments that allow us the simple faith of a child. What we need to know is summarized in the Nicene Creed. But oh, how deep we can go without ever reaching bottom.

Maybe I run in different circles, but when the Catholic church is brought up it is usually met with derision and ridicule.
For example you might hear:

How can you trust the Church after it covered up scandal after scandal?
Are all priests pedophiles?
The nuns I had in school used to hit me.
The deacon/priest seemed more concerned about money than my family during our wedding/funeral. (My family has experienced this ourselves.)
Why do Catholics think Mary can convince Jesus to keep people out of hell?
More Catholics pray to Mary than to Jesus.
What about the inquisition?
Why did the Pope apologize for the crusades, if they were just?
Wasn’t one of your popes a murderer?
What is a mediatrix of all graces? It sounds like hearsay.
Why do you have believe in the assumption of Mary?
The Church is antisemitic.
Why do Catholics show Joesph as old? To manipulate perceptions?
You know the Church invented confessing to a priest in order to have control, right?
The Church made missing Mass and Holy Days a mortal sin to have control.
Why do you have statutes of Mary crushing the head of snake/Satan when it was Jesus. To manipulate perceptions?
Priests couldn’t marry so the Church would get their money/prop. when they died.
Why does the Church have so much money? Didn’t Jesus say to give away all?
Most priests really don’t believe in God.
Didn’t they kill Galileo?
It says in scripture that Mary didn’t have relations with Joesph until after she had Jesus. Why do Catholic´s teach that she remained a virgin?

So, I can just hand them a 500+ page catechism to clear all this up? And tell them over and over and over that “well our first Pope was a denier of Christ and so…”

We are all the body of Christ. It is OUR responsibility to make sure His church reflects His teachings, spirit, and truth. If we (and generations before us) have seen the bad actions, bad clergy, bad popes, it is up to us hold them accountable. It seems impossible now since so much time, confusion and the growth of bureaucracy has been left unabated. And the fact that many, many Catholics don’t know what the Church teaches or why she teaches it is a problem. I’ve been told that if I don’t have a devotion to Mary that I do not have salvation. My own mother never read the bible, since she was told by the nuns, who also beat her, not to. She also had to be “churched” after she had a baby and was taught about limbo. Apparently, neither of these are official Church teachings, but we’re taught to millions anyway.

I will just hold on to the core teachings and try to ignore the confusion and derision.

Getting new converts to even consider the Catholic church is hard enough, but then to heap on them reams of not only necessary teachings, but also seemingly unnecessary rules and regulations. All the while assuring them that the Church has the power to “bind and loose” and she uses it judiciously, despite a long and sorted history.

This will be my last post on this matter, but I do love our faith and our long history. However, I think a good dose of minimalism might not be so bad. Back to basics.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit