Does the Catholic Church Claim to Know Too Much?


#1

Greetings to you all again! As many, if not most of you know, I have been lurking/posting on this board since late June. I first came here to satisfy my curiosity about Catholicism (sparked by seeing the “Prayer of St. Michael” taped to the inside of the windshield in one of my platoon’s humvees here in Iraq). I have learned an enormous amount about Catholicism here, and I even ordered several books from Amazon.com by Patrick Madrid and Dave Armstrong. I have come to have a much more positive opinion about Catholicism and am this close to becoming Catholic myself.

The problem is, against all logic it seems, I still am struggling with all of this. I think twenty-five years of Protestantism is a difficult thing to suddenly toss aside, especially when it would be to join a Church I have always been taught was false.

And yet, I have learned enough about the early Church, as well as about the early Protestant Reformers, to know that there is something fundamentally flawed about every Protestant denomination. They all say the Bible is their sole source of doctrine, and yet they cannot agree about what it says. And, ultimately, with their insistence on private interpretation, they have no authority to tell anyone what the correct interpretation is. Thus, there are numerous contradictory denominations full of members who, in most cases, do not even fully agree with their own particular denomination’s teachings.

So, right now I am in a confusing situation. I’m not quite prepared to accept Catholicism, but I also have no basis for selecting any Protestant denomination.

So, to get to the point, my main problem with Catholicism is that it claims to know so much. For example, as a Protestant, when my church said that non-Christians would go to Hell, I could just say to myself, “Well, the Bible does seem to state this clearly, but perhaps my church’s understanding of this is wrong, and perhaps God will do something to save those who, through no fault of their own, never heard and accepted the Gospel message.” My Protestant church claimed no infallibility for itself, it just taught the truth as it saw it. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, comes right out and says, “This is how it is, this is what you must believe, and we are never wrong.”

This is nice if it’s really true, but what if it isn’t? To become a Catholic, I would have to accept every doctrine of the Church. Until I am prepared to do so, I am in the uncomfortable situation of knowing Protestantism does not have a leg to stand on, but also not knowing if the Catholic Church really has the authority it says it has. Quite confusing. :frowning:

So, please pray for me about this! Also, I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer to get me through this time of confusion. Thanks!

I’m supposed to leave Iraq in a few days!!! :thumbsup:


#2

I think it has to because there are so many opinions as to what is truth.

People come up with new ideas like this,

I have heard the Gospel but am a good person so that is enough. and some people might even follow this person with this idea and the Church must address that.

Now multiply that one person’s idea across 2000 years and the Church must have a lot to define to make sure the faith is not mis-represented. Eventually you come up with a whole body of understanding that is attacked even more and needs more explanation to maintain truth.

So that is it in a nutshell, I really think if you just lived out your faith like those little old ladies in Church who know it is true and not have a bunch of baggage to overcome it is a little easier.

I had a lot of Evangelical baggage to overcome and have many friends in Evangelical Churches so I continue to be learn. Sometimes I think it would be easier if I grew up in a small Catholic country and had a very good orthodox priest and I just stayed involved in that little parish.

But divisions create confusion and since I am stuck knowing what I know, I have to follow my commitment to Christ and defend the truth.

I can comment on infallibility if you like, I think I have a clear easy understanding, that a person from your background can probably accept.

In Christ
Scylla


#3

[quote=The Iambic Pen] Until I am prepared to do so, I am in the uncomfortable situation of knowing Protestantism does not have a leg to stand on, but also not knowing if the Catholic Church really has the authority it says it has. Quite confusing. :frowning:
[/quote]

I think you’re in bigger trouble than that. If you have come to the realization that Protestantism, including personal interpretation, can have no authority, you are left with two options.

Option one is that the Catholic Church has the authority it claims. No other Church on earth dares makes such a claim. If it is false, it is monstrous. If it is true, it is the path that Christ left us for salvation. It has the authority because it has his authority.

The other option is that if both Protestantism and Catholicism have no authority, then Christ came, started a religion and left leaving no one in authority. That we are sort of all left dangling out here, left to fend for ourselves, endlessly bickering and contradicting each other.

It is my impression after reading and replying to your posts over these many months, that you are true follower of Christ – that you love him and are striving to find him in his fullness. If you think about the Christ you have come to know and love, would he --could he --have left us with option two? That he would do so would make him the worst of men – either clueless, or deceptive, mad as a hatter – or a demoniac.

I think you should keep reading and studying about this and other issues, but at some point it’ll all come back to this: What plan would Jesus have likely made to provide for his Church and protect them from the wolves that would come to tear his flock in all directions? What visible Church has lasted for 2000 years and, despite the sinfulness of many individuals within the flock, has steadfastly proclaimed the gospel? If it is not the Catholic Church, it is nowhere.

So, please pray for me about this! Also, I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer to get me through this time of confusion. Thanks!

I’m supposed to leave Iraq in a few days!!! :thumbsup:

I will SO pray for you IP. Keep your head down and keep in touch!


#4

It seems to me that there are at least two questions lurking here. One is whether the Church founded by Christ would have been granted the revelations you speak of, and the other is whether the Catholic Church is that Church founded by God.

What do you think of the first question? Would Christ’s Church have such revelations?

If you say no, then the discussion stops. If you say yes, then that Church has to exist somewhere, and it’s just a matter of finding it.


#5

scylla:

Sometimes I think it would be easier if I grew up in a small Catholic country and had a very good orthodox priest and I just stayed involved in that little parish.

You and me both! :slight_smile:

I can comment on infallibility if you like, I think I have a clear easy understanding, that a person from your background can probably accept.

Anything would be helpful, of course. I have read a good deal about it on this site and elsewhere. I have heard about ex cathedra statements and how rare they are, and how an infallible Church is necessary or we would never know what is true. Still, any more on this subject would be extremely helpful.

Fidelis:

I think you’re in bigger trouble than that. If you have come to the realization that Protestantism, including personal interpretation, can have no authority, you are left with two options…

I think you just hit the nail on the head. This is exactly the issue I have been dealing with. Obviously, I can’t believe number two, but I have been taught for so long that number one is wrong, it is hard to overcome my prejudices.

If you think about the Christ you have come to know and love, would he --could he --have left us with option two? That he would do so would make him the worst of men – either clueless, or deceptive, mad as a hatter – or a demoniac.

This brings to mind another struggle I have. If Protestantism is true, why did God allow people to persist in falsehood for fifteen hundred years? If Catholicism is true, why has God allowed so many people (many of whom truly desire to serve Him with all their hearts) to persist in falsehood for the last five hundred years? When I was a child, I used to think that it was such a sad and terrible thing that everyone who lived in the Middle Ages (a time I found and still find fascinating) went to Hell when they died, seeing as how they were Catholic. When I got older, I began to see that this could not be so and that perhaps there was enough truth in Catholicism that a person could be saved in spite of all its false teachings. Now, however, I have come to see that the teachings I thought were false date back to the early days of the Church, and that many of my church’s teachings (like the Rapture, the ordination of women, and the inappropriateness of alcohol) are, in fact, relatively recent teachings.

I think you should keep reading and studying about this and other issues

Believe me, I will!

I will SO pray for you IP. Keep your head down and keep in touch!

Thank you for your prayers! I might be absent for a little while, starting a few days from now, but I intend to return to my studies and to this forum when I get back to the States. I will certainly keep in touch.

I have been trying various Catholic things lately, but I think my upbringing still makes me feel weird about them. On several occasions, I have asked Mary and the other Saints to pray to God for me, that He would guide me through this time of confusion. After doing so, however, I have felt slightly odd, as if I had just done something I shouldn’t have. I have been attending mass as well, when I am able, but I’m still not comfortable making the sign of the cross or genuflecting. Part of that, of course, is that I don’t want to engage in false advertising… :slight_smile: I guess I don’t want to give people the impression that I’m already Catholic when I’m not.

Anyway, that’s all for this post. Hopefully when I get back to the Savannah area, I can find a good, solid RCIA class and begin the process I know in my heart I will complete some day, despite my current protestations. God Bless!


#6

You absolutely have my prayers
Rather than saying the Catholic Church knows too much, I would say that She knows exactly what She needs to know.
By saying that, I mean that if a question of faith arises, the Church will publish Her teaching, that which She has always taught but had no need to present until it was questioned. That was how the heresies of the early Church were handled, and that was the whole reason for the Council of Trent; to restate the teachings that the Church had taught from the beginning.
As far as infalliblity, our Lord gave it to the Church so that there would be no doubt as to His Truth. It comes through mortal men, but it is given by the Holy Spirit. I’m sure you’ve seen the Biblical foundations for this.
Being in the military, if the privates and corporals question the orders of the sergeants and the sergeants question the officers, everybody dies.
SOMEBODY has to have the authority, and the authoirity is based on knowedge.
As far as God allowing people to continue in error, he gives us the incomparabe honor of having free will. Along with that free will, though, is the responsibility we have to inform ourselves. You are in the process of doing this, and it sounds as if you’re on the right track.
As Father Corpi says, "God put obvious limits on our intilligence but none whatsoever on our stupidity."
Advice? Read Sheed!


#7

[quote=The Iambic Pen]The problem is, against all logic it seems, I still am struggling with all of this. I think twenty-five years of Protestantism is a difficult thing to suddenly toss aside, especially when it would be to join a Church I have always been taught was false.

. . . .

So, right now I am in a confusing situation. I’m not quite prepared to accept Catholicism, but I also have no basis for selecting any Protestant denomination.
[/quote]

Welcome to one of the most difficult spots we come through in the process you have shared with us. You are living through John Henry Newman’s famous observation, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.”

Indeed, clearly, you are no longer Protestant – but you’re also not ready to be fully Catholic. REAL ugh-leee place to be! God love ya! Been there! But don’t be too quick to leave that uncertain place. If you cross the Tiber, you don’t have to be totally in love with everything Catholic, you just have to be convinced that there are no realistic alternatives!

I’m supposed to leave Iraq in a few days!!! :thumbsup:

:dancing: :clapping: Woo-hoo! For goodl, I hope!


#8

[quote=The Iambic Pen]Greetings to you all again! As many, if not most of you know, I have been lurking/posting on this board since late June. I first came here to satisfy my curiosity about Catholicism (sparked by seeing the “Prayer of St. Michael” taped to the inside of the windshield in one of my platoon’s humvees here in Iraq). I have learned an enormous amount about Catholicism here, and I even ordered several books from Amazon.com by Patrick Madrid and Dave Armstrong. I have come to have a much more positive opinion about Catholicism and am this close to becoming Catholic myself.

The problem is, against all logic it seems, I still am struggling with all of this. I think twenty-five years of Protestantism is a difficult thing to suddenly toss aside, especially when it would be to join a Church I have always been taught was false.

And yet, I have learned enough about the early Church, as well as about the early Protestant Reformers, to know that there is something fundamentally flawed about every Protestant denomination. They all say the Bible is their sole source of doctrine, and yet they cannot agree about what it says. And, ultimately, with their insistence on private interpretation, they have no authority to tell anyone what the correct interpretation is. Thus, there are numerous contradictory denominations full of members who, in most cases, do not even fully agree with their own particular denomination’s teachings.

So, right now I am in a confusing situation. I’m not quite prepared to accept Catholicism, but I also have no basis for selecting any Protestant denomination.

So, to get to the point, my main problem with Catholicism is that it claims to know so much. For example, as a Protestant, when my church said that non-Christians would go to Hell, I could just say to myself, “Well, the Bible does seem to state this clearly, but perhaps my church’s understanding of this is wrong, and perhaps God will do something to save those who, through no fault of their own, never heard and accepted the Gospel message.” My Protestant church claimed no infallibility for itself, it just taught the truth as it saw it. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, comes right out and says, “This is how it is, this is what you must believe, and we are never wrong.”

This is nice if it’s really true, but what if it isn’t? To become a Catholic, I would have to accept every doctrine of the Church. Until I am prepared to do so, I am in the uncomfortable situation of knowing Protestantism does not have a leg to stand on, but also not knowing if the Catholic Church really has the authority it says it has. Quite confusing. :frowning:

So, please pray for me about this! Also, I would greatly appreciate any help you can offer to get me through this time of confusion. Thanks!

I’m supposed to leave Iraq in a few days!!! :thumbsup:
[/quote]

I do not have anything particular to add, but I wanted to write to tell you “Thank you for serving the US and for being in Iraq!” I know others are equally grateful for your commitment and sacrifice! God bless you!


#9

Hi there,

I hope you’ll become Catholic because it’s the BEST thing to be. Let me warn you to not get so overwhelmed by it and emotional like I do sometimes!

Take one thing at a time!

Sometimes a good thing to do is take a walk [images.bravenet.com/common/images/smilies/walk.gif](“javascript: void(0);”) and think about stuff and then that might help too.


#10

Hi there,

I hope you’ll become Catholic because it’s the BEST thing to be. Let me warn you to not get so overwhelmed by it and emotional like I do sometimes and then get so so overwhelmed that you want to leave! DON’T DO THAT!!!

Take one thing at a time!

Sometimes a good thing to do is take a walk images.bravenet.com/common/images/smilies/walk.gif and think about stuff and then that might help too.


#11

[quote=The Iambic Pen]This brings to mind another struggle I have. If Protestantism is true, why did God allow people to persist in falsehood for fifteen hundred years? If Catholicism is true, why has God allowed so many people (many of whom truly desire to serve Him with all their hearts) to persist in falsehood for the last five hundred years?
[/quote]

I see a difference between these two situations. In the first (1500 year) situation, there was no alternative. That is, if Catholicism (and Orthodoxy, don’t forget them) was false, then how could anybody discover the truth? It’s not like they could all read and could all afford a hand-copied bible! So if Catholicism was false, then for 1500 years everybody really was outta luck.

The situation after the Reformation was different. If Protestantism was false, the true (for sake of this argument) teachings of the Catholic Church were generally available to those seeking the truth. So few Protestants would be outta luck. It’s hard to imagine a Protestant who, during the entire course of his life, would not be able to learn more about Catholicism if God put that desire into his heart.

So I’d say your question points again to the Catholic Church as being true. Gee, how come it always turns out that way for me? :slight_smile:


#12

IP,
May St. Michael the archangel protect you all the way home to those who await you with loving arms…(including the Catholic Church.)

Your quandry is the one that forces us all to cross the Tiber and remain there. In your seeking of truth, you must first be faithful to that truth at all costs, right?
God bless you Brother and see ya in church! I’ll remember you at Midnight Mass!
Pax tecum,


#13

IP:

God love you man! I’ve been following you for a while now and in a way very proud of you and the grace that the good Lord has granted you. Now, get back here sooner than one can say: riteofcatholicinitiationforadults!

I think Chesterton put it really well when he said that the CC is the only institution looking out to all directions at all time. Given that only the CC claims to hold the deposit of faith, it is burdened with the OBLIGATION mandated by God to clarify to the Nth degree what is morally wrong and right. More than the enjoyment of power that a lot of people may think, the popes and the magisterium are under cosmic stress to get it right for their own salvation is at stake should they make a mistake! Just this last month the document regarding the homosexual applicants for the priesthood is released even though the church is in need of priests, it will not compromise this. When Humanae Vitae was released in 68–caused thousands of Catholics to leave the church, it didn’t recant its declaration. That’s courage in the midst of the other churches caving in to the popular views of their congregations.

Secondly, regarding your “limbo” like situation. Remember that you are not compelled until you are thoroughly convinced to come home. Take time but do not lax on studying more and more and more. Enjoy this time, don’t stress. But if you’re excited, imagine that we are just as thrilled as you!!! It seems like most of the pieces are already in place for you, so enjoy the time filling in the blanks.

There’s a Maryknoll priest that was a chaplain during the Vietnam war that sacrificed his life for some marines during a battle. Fr. Vincent Capodanno. I hope you find the time to get to know his story, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. Written by Fr. Daniel Mode, book entitled The Grunt Padre.

in XT.


#14

To your q., IMHO, yes. “Knowledge puffs up, charity builds up”, as St. Paul said. Knowledge is not the only grace the Church has received, nor even the most important.

For a lot of Catholics, the Church’s knowledge is something possessed all at once - it can’t increase, because it is already complete. I believe this idea (which I hope I’ve not misrepresented) pays too little attention to the Incarnation: Jesus had to acquire knowledge, through experience, just as other men have to, since He is truly and really man as He is God - so I don’t see how the Church can be any different. In addition, ISTM that a dynamic conception of the Church’s knowledge, in which that knowledge is capable of being gained, of increasing, of being clarified and more clearly focussed, and of being purified and made more acute, of being made wiser and better by all the other graces the Church has received, is more fully human, & is in better agreement with historical realities than the notion that the Church always possessed the same knowledge in equal fullness from the very beginning.

I don’t think it is is any dishonour to the Church to say that she has to learn, if she is to proclaim her message effectively. And as Christ was lacking in certain perfections (St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of this at length in the Summa Theologiae, Part Three) in order to be a man among men, for the Church to be lacking in certain respects does not seem unreasonable.

For Jesus to acquire knowledge, implies a preceding lack of knowledge, if the words “acquired knowledge” are to name a reality and not be a solemn playing with words. The Church’s equivalent of this, seems to be, to lack the full splendour which will be hers in the eschatological Kingdom of God, when His whole purpose is achieved according to His Will; which is why the BVM is the “eschatological icon of the Church”: she possesses in full what the Church does not yet possess in full.

OTOH - it could be, that the Church has been granted the whole knowledge of the Glorified Christ: or at least enough of a share in it to perform her mission. But if so, this does not explain why the Church does not go ahead & define every dogma she will define in the future - why delay doing so, if there is nothing to learn & all is known already ? Since Israel had to learn, it is not clear why the Church should not have to. Her not knowing all things that she will come to know, need not disable her from carrying out her mission - it could mean that she knows what she needs to. But ISTM that one could argue the toss indefinitely ##


#15

If you are into reading, read every single orthodox Catholic book you can get your hands on. Read much about doctrine, dogma, infallibility, etc. if these are what is giving you problems. Read voraciously, it has helped me greatly. Of course, also pray. Do them both together!

If you are convinced that protestantism is wrong, then disregard what you have been taught. Reject any protestant notion and misrepresentation of “Popery”. I know it is going to be hard if you were raised like that and have been taught that the Church was wrong for so long. However, when you doubt, just think of why you think protestantism is wrong. If the protestant system is wrong at its very core, none of its little jabs and disses towards the Catholic Church hold up either.


#16

[quote=ComradeAndrei] If the protestant system is wrong at its very core, none of its little jabs and disses towards the Catholic Church hold up either.
[/quote]

This doesn’t follow - there are many Protestant objections to Catholicism which are valid in whole or in part, or which have been, but no longer are. That this is so, is sometimes a point in favour of this or that Protestant position, & sometimes is neither for nor against Protestantism or Catholicism: it depends entirely on what the “jab” is about, and on what the basis for it may be.


#17

Iambic Pen

You should try the audio tape/CD by Marcellino D’Ambrosio called Peter, The Pope and Infallibility, which should give you a good overview of the teaching authority of the Catholic Church.

crossroadsinitiative.com/resource_info/145.html

Good luck. I too will pray for you.


#18

First of all, God bless you for your service, and I wish you a safe journey home.

“What is truth?” Potius Pilate asked that very question of Christ. He couldn’t figure it out and said “I find no crime in him.” Yet he let him get crucified anyway. Why? to protect himself. To protect his position. To keep the peace. As a result he became the poster child for all of humanity. We all hunger for the the truth, but sometimes we fear embracing it even when it is right before our very eyes.

The Church doesn’t know so much because it’s full of smart people. It knows so much because it is from God. It is His gift to the world until Christ comes again.

My friend, you can’t think your way into the Church. Your brain has only a finite capacity. You have to find your way home with your heart. That is where the answer you seek lies. Open your heart to Our Lord. Embrace that truth.

You’re almost home in many ways, no? Christ’s arms are stretched out to receive you. Be not afraid. Peace be with you.


#19

Then you are hopelessly adrift in the confusion of Protestantism with no way of ever knowing what Jesus really taught.

You must ask yourself this, does it make any sense that Jesus would found a church, and then leave the members of his church with no way of ever being sure what he really taught? Sure, it is a bold claim of the Catholic Church that her official teaching on matters of faith and morals is protected by a charism Holy Spirit that prevents her from becoming an instrument of Satan that teaches lies. A bold claim, yes, but a logically plausible claim if you believe that Jesus came save men and to lead them to the truth.

To me, it is highly irrational for Protestants to claim that their denomination does not have a teaching office that isn’t protected by Holy Spirit from teaching error on matters of faith and morals. Because if their Protestant denomination isn’t protected from teaching error, then that means that their denomination could be an unwitting agent of Satan that is leading men to their destruction.

To become a Catholic, I would have to accept every doctrine of the Church.

Jesus can’t possibly be asking every person that is alive to examine in detail the arguments made during every Ecumenical Council - and decide for oneself if these Councils taught correctly. Why would Jesus found a church that required every member the church, including children to illiterate adults, to decide for themselves if the teaching of Christ’s church might have gone astray sometime in the last two thousand years? What highly educated man or woman could possibly find the time to do a detailed study of every single doctrine that has been defined during the last two thousand years? And why would Christ found a church where only the highly educated could even make the attempt to study every single doctrine of Christ’s church with the detail required to pass judgement on the official teaching of the church? Protestantism places this onerous burden on those sincerely seeking to know the truth, but does Christ? I can’t believe that he does.

It seems to me that you only have to struggle with one question. Where does one find the church that Jesus founded, the church against which the powers of hell will never prevail? How can anyone serioulsly consider any Protestant denomination to be the church founded by Jesus? There were no Protestant denominatons until a few centuries ago, and Christ founded his church two thousand years ago. The only church that can be seriously considered to be the church founded by Christ is either the Catholic Church or it is one of the local particular churches of the EO and the OO.


#20

[quote=The Iambic Pen]… I have been trying various Catholic things lately, but I think my upbringing still makes me feel weird about them. On several occasions, I have asked Mary and the other Saints to pray to God for me, that He would guide me through this time of confusion. After doing so, however, I have felt slightly odd, as if I had just done something I shouldn’t have. I have been attending mass as well, when I am able, but I’m still not comfortable making the sign of the cross or genuflecting. Part of that, of course, is that I don’t want to engage in false advertising… :slight_smile: I guess I don’t want to give people the impression that I’m already Catholic when I’m not. …
[/quote]

Just want to echo what others have said in THANKING YOU for serving our country in Iraq! :thumbsup: God bless you man.

As far as feeling weird about Catholic practices, I think it is good to resolve in your mind what the problem is. For instance, I used to have a problem relating directly to Mary because of being told it was wrong. Then I heard some great teachings on EWTN radio (and read Frank Sheed’s classic Theology for Beginners) which helped me to believe that God Himself had given Mary a spiritual motherhood role when He said “Mother behold your son” from the cross, and that these were among His last words on earth. (i.e., important and not trivial words.)

Another sort of image I use in my mind is that Jesus, with the Father and the Holy Spirit - the Trinity, the God of all creation - is like the bright sun in the middle of the spiritual universe. And Mary and the saints are close to Him, and even in a mysterious way alive IN Him … They point the way to Him - not to themselves. (As in “do whatever He tells you.” (John 2:5)) I figure any friend of God’s is a friend of mine :slight_smile: Patrick Madrid has also written a book with the same title , you might have already heard of it.

Also, Bert Ghezzi has written a book about The Sign of the Cross where he explains how making the sign of the cross is actually a simple yet powerful prayer.

If you’re like me, if you can intellectually understand why we do certain things, you won’t feel like it is just an empty ritual. The other thing that struck me reading your post was that sometimes Catholic apologists can sound like know-it-alls. A wise priest in my area said “Apologetics is 10% apologetics and 90% charity”. I love apologetics and theology and understanding things as best I can, but in the end this knowledge is only useful if it brings me closer to God through prayer, and helps me really know Him by DOING what He says. :smiley:

Hope this and my prayers help!


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