Catholicism and Free Thought


#1

I have a friend who thinks Catholics check their brains at the Church door. The theologians are silenced, the lay people are required to see the world through a narrow lense, etc. This friend of mine finds Catholicism intellectually oppressive. I want to show this person that the Church encourages free thinking, is quite liberal where theologians are concerend, and merely takes action to protect them and “ordinary” people from wandering into heresy. Any ideas? Good examples?


#2

Do you get EWTN in your area? Invite them over to watch. I would especially encourage “The Journey Home” show that interviews people’s conversion to Catholicism. The host of this show, Marcus Grodi, also operates the Coming Home Network, set up especially for protestant ministers who are considering converstion.

Do you receive Catholic Answers live on the radio? Invite them to listen. Have them check out answers to their questions on the Catholic Answers website.

Give them a Scott Hahn book.

Give them a Catechism to read and then see if they feel that Catholics don’t think through their faith!


#3

Most who find the Church oppressive tend to be projecting themselves on the church. It is very common for someone to say that if you do not come to the same logically conclusions then you are narrow-minded. I know of no doctrine of the church that has not been intellectually scrutinized by academics of all faiths and schools. It is a lie of the worst sort to suggest that the church does not wish people to employ their minds when the approach the church.

While a relativist might disagree with the Church, a learned one, would readily admit to the deliberate and rational character of the Church’s position.

God Bless


#4

The other side of the “Church is repressive”: the Church expects one to have an open mind; but not so open one’s brains fall out…

So much of the “repressive” bit comes from relativism which the speaker is most often not even aware of… but is really at the root of the question.

And interestingly, much of the “repressive” bit (although not all, by all means) has to do with sexual morality (or the lack thereof), which is intrinsically based on relativism. It goes back to the 60’s “If it feels good, do it” approach, which really was only a public expression of an idea that had its genesis long before that.


#5

[quote=Lilllabettt]I have a friend who thinks Catholics check their brains at the Church door. The theologians are silenced, the lay people are required to see the world through a narrow lense, etc. This friend of mine finds Catholicism intellectually oppressive. I want to show this person that the Church encourages free thinking, is quite liberal where theologians are concerend, and merely takes action to protect them and “ordinary” people from wandering into heresy. Any ideas? Good examples?
[/quote]

On the contrary, if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error.

If you “check your brain at the door” you cannot be a good Catholic and you risk Hell by willfully rejecting the Truth. All truth is God’s truth.


#6

Oh my… I have never in my life found a Church that could answer my logical and reasonable questions until I found this one! :slight_smile:

One of the very things that I love so much is that it is cerebrally stimulating and fulfilling, not just aesthetically or emotionally pleasing!

Looking back, I realize that it was extremely frustrating to try to be my own interpreter - I did not have the knowledge of the context of the times in which the Scriptures were written. I didn’t understand the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the birth of Christ, the New Covenant. I didn’t know much about the social mores and cultural conditions which make such things as Christ’s baptism by John or his presentation in the Temple by his parents so important. They knew he was the Emmanuel, and still they followed the law! That’s just one example.

I did not have a lifetime to devote to study of the Scriptures - I didn’t understand anything about how they fit together and support each other. But, now when I have a question, it’s almost instantly answered with logic and reason and Scripture and Tradition! How exciting! YES! It all makes sense, now! The Catholic Church gives me **real **answers.

Why the notion of “by Scripture alone” isn’t Scriptural! Nor “by faith alone!” Proof that Mary was conceived and lived without sin. Proof that Christ founded a single Church. And that it’s flourished for nearly 2000 years. Oh so much… so much more than I can put into a single post.

I am loving this study - the Saints, the Early Church Fathers, the good Apologetics, the Catechism, the Catholic Bibles - it’s suddenly all so clear!

This Church is so rich on every level - even the intellectual one. It is one of the most precious gifts to me of my entire life and it’s caught me ON FIRE! Nothing else has even touched this depth of feeling or knowledge, before - I spent my whole life looking for this. And the whole time, God was periodically calling me to the Catholic Church and I kept saying, “No, that’s not the one for me.” (I was one of those millions who didn’t like what I thought the Catholic Church was. :wink:

Nothing prepared me for the excitement and the fulfilment I would find once I opened that door a crack. All I had to do was say, “Okay, God, I’ll look into it” and wham! Bam! It was a flying leap from a mere willingness right into the mind-blowing acknowledgment that I had somehow become Catholic! It took like a week or two - that’s all! Everything led me to the Church. Signs kept popping up all over the place and I kept finding pieces of this rich history and Tradition and truth. I have embraced the Church whole-heartedly and joyously!

I’m sorry your friend doesn’t understand - I regret so much that I separated myself from my Lord and my Savior because I thought I hated Christianity. I wish I could help steer more people to His Church so that they don’t waste so much of their lives, too.

Elizabeth


#7

I would suggest having them read some writings by Catholic saints. Catholicism being intellectually oppressive? I don’t understand how someone could say that looking at all that St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas wrote. Their writings surpass those of Aristotle and Socrates in size.

matt


#8

[quote=ElizabethJoy]Oh my… I have never in my life found a Church that could answer my logical and reasonable questions until I found this one! :slight_smile:

One of the very things that I love so much is that it is cerebrally stimulating and fulfilling, not just aesthetically or emotionally pleasing!

Looking back, I realize that it was extremely frustrating to try to be my own interpreter - I did not have the knowledge of the context of the times in which the Scriptures were written. I didn’t understand the fulfilment of the Old Testament in the birth of Christ, the New Covenant. I didn’t know much about the social mores and cultural conditions which make such things as Christ’s baptism by John or his presentation in the Temple by his parents so important. They knew he was the Emmanuel, and still they followed the law! That’s just one example.

I did not have a lifetime to devote to study of the Scriptures - I didn’t understand anything about how they fit together and support each other. But, now when I have a question, it’s almost instantly answered with logic and reason and Scripture and Tradition! How exciting! YES! It all makes sense, now! The Catholic Church gives me **real **answers.

Why the notion of “by Scripture alone” isn’t Scriptural! Nor “by faith alone!” Proof that Mary was conceived and lived without sin. Proof that Christ founded a single Church. And that it’s flourished for nearly 2000 years. Oh so much… so much more than I can put into a single post.

I am loving this study - the Saints, the Early Church Fathers, the good Apologetics, the Catechism, the Catholic Bibles - it’s suddenly all so clear!

This Church is so rich on every level - even the intellectual one. It is one of the most precious gifts to me of my entire life and it’s caught me ON FIRE! Nothing else has even touched this depth of feeling or knowledge, before - I spent my whole life looking for this. And the whole time, God was periodically calling me to the Catholic Church and I kept saying, “No, that’s not the one for me.” (I was one of those millions who didn’t like what I thought the Catholic Church was. :wink:

Nothing prepared me for the excitement and the fulfilment I would find once I opened that door a crack. All I had to do was say, “Okay, God, I’ll look into it” and wham! Bam! It was a flying leap from a mere willingness right into the mind-blowing acknowledgment that I had somehow become Catholic! It took like a week or two - that’s all! Everything led me to the Church. Signs kept popping up all over the place and I kept finding pieces of this rich history and Tradition and truth. I have embraced the Church whole-heartedly and joyously!

I’m sorry your friend doesn’t understand - I regret so much that I separated myself from my Lord and my Savior because I thought I hated Christianity. I wish I could help steer more people to His Church so that they don’t waste so much of their lives, too.

Elizabeth
[/quote]

Wow! I could have written pretty much everything you said there! I am a new convert, and I hated religion, especially Christianity before. Everything I thought to be true about the Catholic Church is so much different! To sum it up in one sentence, though: The Catholic Church is so completely full of love - God’s Love. There is just so much that is behind that sentence, I wish I could explain it all…


#9

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes of GK Chesterton.

The Catholic Church
"It is the only thing that frees a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age"

We don’t have to reinvent anything and can build on the work of 2000 years of intellectual giants.

Like other people said,

Give them a book on Aquinas
Give them a Scott Hahn book

Invite them to Catholic Answers,

God Bless
Scylla


#10

In my mind, I turn the challenge back on the person: can you name a single insight in history that was arrived at in total intellectual freedom, i.e., on an intellectual desert island?

Every scientist who is intellectually honest admits, as Sir Isaac Newton did, that his accomplishments were only possible by “standing on the shoulders of giants.”

One always begins an inquiry by asking: what is the known, the given? Then one says: now let me solve the unknown by means of the given, using the given as a tool. The given is treated - even if hypothetically - as dogma for the purpose of the line of inquiry.

The nature of inquiry itself is a succession of higher viewpoints formed on insights already fought for and won by others.

Even the simplest mathematical problem is unsolvable unless you are given constraints.

Can you solve:

X + Y = 12?

No you can’t. Not without someone giving you the gift - so to speak - of a constraint!

Okay, you are constrained by the fact that X = 8.

Then Y = 4.

Without firm constraints, the human mind does not think, it just spins aimlessly with no standard for judging that one has arrived at the truth. X = -100, Y = 112, X = -101, Y = 111, etc. etc.

In my opinion, the utopian ideal of total intellectual openness is sort of mythical and primitive, and far from enlightened.

One of the beautiful aspects of the Catholic religion is precisely that it is eminently reasonable.


#11

[quote=otm]The other side of the “Church is repressive”: the Church expects one to have an open mind; but not so open one’s brains fall out…

[/quote]

Chesterton said “The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid.”


#12

[quote=Lilllabettt]I have a friend who thinks Catholics check their brains at the Church door. The theologians are silenced, the lay people are required to see the world through a narrow lense, etc.
[/quote]

Ask your friend where the idea of the university comes from. Beyond that, get an instance from your friend of this oppression. It would be interesting to get a concrete example. Absolute truth can be very oppressive to those who struggle against it.


#13

This is such nonsense. Read the writers who have been canonized. Therese Lisuix (Dr. of the Church), Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Seiena (Dr. of the Church), Teresa of Avilla (Dr. of the Church) (i’m listing wome for a reason, they are not those mind controlling priests), Mother Teresa.Catholicism, rather than denying freedom of thought frees thinking to reach the depths of God and his word but giving it the framework of truth! Tradition is to scripture as the commandments are to moral freedom. We can go down the path of false theologies but they are dead ends. Yet when our thinking is framed in the light of truth we can go deeper and deeper in to the infinite mystery of God. Otherwise we are like rats in a maze.

Blessings


#14

Wher did this conclusions come from?, please cite magisterial document.

Thanks

"On the contrary, if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error. "


#15

[quote=MiddleBear]Wher did this conclusions come from?, please cite magisterial document.

Thanks

"On the contrary, if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error. "
[/quote]

[/font]http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a6.htm

[/font]http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s1c1a8.htm


#16

You might also want to point out that the theologians who are ‘silenced’ are, for the most part, just told not to call what they are saying Catholic when it isn’t. They can still say whatever they want. It’s kind of like truth in advertising.

Another thing to have your friend read is Fides et Ratio, which says that faith without reason is weakened, among the many things it says that insist upon the value of reason.
I don’t know if you subscribe to This Rock, but there’s a Step by Step article in the May/June issue that deals with intellectual freedom and Catholicism. It might not be what you’re looking for, but it could be useful.


#17

[quote=Lilllabettt]Good examples?
[/quote]

How about Fr. Richard McBrien or Fr. Philip Kaufman ?


#18

[quote=Lilllabettt]I have a friend who thinks Catholics check their brains at the Church door. The theologians are silenced, the lay people are required to see the world through a narrow lense, etc. This friend of mine finds Catholicism intellectually oppressive. I want to show this person that the Church encourages free thinking, is quite liberal where theologians are concerend, and merely takes action to protect them and “ordinary” people from wandering into heresy. Any ideas? Good examples?
[/quote]

Lilllabettt,

This isn’t really a good example, but you may want to point out to your friend the present state of the Episcopal Church. They have opened their minds to the point that they now cannot say of anything regarding morality that “This is a sin, we have always taught that this is a sin, and we will always teach that this is a sin.” This is what happens when you don’t have the watchdog keeping the theologians and the faithful away from the edge of the cliff.

  • Liberian

#19

All of this reasonable, rational thought is based on

4 conclusions:

there is a God
Jesus of Nazareth is the God-Man
God is Triune
The Catholic Church is the church founded by Jesus

When an individual concludes that h/she can give
assent to all four, let the reasoning begin ! becaue
all of the above are based on revelation, not reason.
In themselves, each is “reasonable” i.e., there is
nothing “illogical” about these statements.

quote: **DeFide **

"On the contrary, if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error. "

Where in heaven’s name did you get this quote?
Can you attribute it to another, or is this your
own summary, based on the Catechism of the
Catholic Church links, that you provided?

quote: DeFide

…if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic…

What “kind” of Catholic, DeFide? One who was
baptized and had his faith chosen for him by
his parents, as an infant? subsequently catechized
in that faith?
Or an adult convert, who makes h/her own decision?

The point is, where is this precious “freedom of
conscience”?
How does “freedom” comport with:

quote: DeFide

"…but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the Church in honest but partly culpable error. "

Following my conscience, now becomes a “venial sin”? due to:

quote:** DeFide**

"…honest but partly culpable error. "

Oh, my achin’ heart…

reen12


#20

Actually to dissent from authoritative teaching of the Church is contrary to the CCC. We are bound to follow our properly formed conscience, (thus follow the teaching of the Catholic Church).

If one does not understand the Church teaching then one need to find out more info onthe subject and to prayerfully request guidance.

See sections of CCC as follows, bold words are put in for emphasis.

CCC II. THE FORMATION OF CONSCIENCE

1783 Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings.

1784 The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart.

1785 In the formation of conscience the Word of God is the light for our path,54 we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church.55


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