Question


#1

Well, I’m not quite sure how to put this ‘question’, and hopefully no one will get seriously offended, but I know of no other way to put it.

I recently returned from a mission (I’m LDS) in Guadalajara, Mexico. I was there for about two years and Guadalajara is known for being the most Catholic city of Mexico. Before I had left on my mission Catholics were among my favorites to discuss religion with because they were usually much more open-minded and intelligent than many protestants I dealt with. But since I have gone to Mexico my view has drastically changed. I recognize that there are many good Catholics who try their best to live their religion here in the States, but apparently in other parts of the world it’s not like that.

On my mission, the most closed-minded, ignorant, and sinful people were the Catholics. If I had to put arbitrary statistics to it, I would guess that 95% of people in Guadalajara were declared, baptised, and confirmed Catholics. Very few of these would attend mass except maybe once or twice a year, if that. The churches there were really rather more center for gossip than religious learning. Very, very few ever read any part of a Bible, or even knew anything about it. Perhaps 1 or 2% of Catholics I found knocking on doors were zealous or fanatical. These were ALMOST always closed-minded, always interrupting, unwilling to logically consider anything, many times totally ignorant of the scriptures, etc. I did meet some (3-5) more or less respectable Catholics, but even they often had strange doctrinal beliefs that I know the Catholic Church does not preach (if anyone is interested I could give a very amusing example). All in all, the Catholics of Guadalajara (with few exceptions) as a whole misrepresent the Catholicism of the States (as it appears to me).

This is not based solely on individual ignorance, laziness, or stupidity of the people. The leaders there are probably most responsable. I have heard many, many stories of corrupt priests, probably from each area I was in. The last pueblo I worked and lived at had a father famous for his rude behavior, swindling of funds, etc. And nothing was ever done about him. Again, I could give some very interesting examples here. As missionaries, our view was that a good Catholic was really a future Mormon, which almost consistently turned out to be the case. To the people, the degree of their closed-mindedness is an indication of their religious piety. If they are unwilling to hear us, to them, they are good, strong Catholics. If they made fun of us, all the moreso.

A few weeks ago we had a visitor in Church who was writing a book on the effects of Catholicism in Vietnam. Apparently, as he told me, the problems there are just as bad, if not worse, than in Mexico. This is not inconsistent with other stories I have heard about other parts of the world as well. Of course, that is hearsay, and what I will stick to is what I saw and heard.

Now, I am taking a few college classes, two of which are ‘Aztecs and Spaniards’, which deals with the conquest of Mexico by Hernan Cortes, and a survey course of Spanish literature. In the first, we are charging through a book by Bernal Diaz which recounts the history of the conquest essentially through the eyes of the Spaniards. On reading this book my views of Catholicism are not much changed, and I think I’m beginning to understand why Mexico is the way it is now. I’m also reading medieval Spanish poetry and such from my other course, which also places a sometimes disturbing emphasis on the religion of the time.

Then, of course, you all know about the big happenings here in Boston, as is the case elsewhere as well…

Now, Jesus said that we should know them by their fruits, and that can be broadened to any people. If people do good things then they are good people, if they do bad things then they are bad people, to generalize. Of course, there is individual choice, and there are many people (yes, in the Mormon church too) that do not really practice what they are taught to. However, I feel that this should be limited to a point. When a whole nation goes awry can that be attributed to individual choice or does something negatively influence them?

I’m not looking for intellectual apologetic answers, because I think I already know them. These aren’t very specific issues, but here is my question: How can I improve my views of Catholicism? I like to see the positive, but I have found too much negative. I know there are good things about Catholics, as I’m sure many of you are good people. But from personal experience I have a sort of yucky feeling in my mouth when I think about Catholics now. There is probably more to the picture, and that is what I want to know. I think that simple exposure to a positive influence can help, which is why I’m here. So let’s talk about it a bit. Any personal experiences or views are fine. Oh, and sorry this post is so long. :slight_smile:


#2

[quote=Chris Jodrey]here is my question: How can I improve my views of Catholicism?
[/quote]

It’s sad that your experiences have been so bad. I know others from other regions of Mexico that say the Faith is alive and strong, so I suppose it varies from place to place.

It’s easy to find folks who do not live their Catholic Faith. It would be unfortunate (and illogical) to judge the Church by those who refuse to keep Her preciepts.

I would suggest that you get to know something about folks who have tried to live by the teachings of the Church. We call those people “Saints.” Pick one and learn about him/her - it will astonish you!

The Saints show us what is possible if we try to live the way the Church instructs. Other faiths have good folks, but I’m not aware of a single good non-Catholic who can stand toe-to-toe with a canonized Catholic Saint when their lives are objectively compared. Now, some surely exist of whom I am unaware, but the Catholc Church has thousands of individuals who show us what is possible through Jesus.

Of course, even the Saints were sinners - we all are (some more than others, as you well know). The Catholic Church claims to be “holy,” but not because Her members are holy (every one is a sinner). She is holy because She teaches a holy doctrine (even though we fail to live up to it). The Church is more than the sum of Her parts - She is the Bride of Christ - a chaste virgin, not a whore (even though Her members are both). So it’s good to learn about the Church, even when Her members don’t represent it well (who knows, maybe you are called to help do something about that!)


#3

I am no expert, but I would attirbute it to two things.

1 is the cultural difference. It’s certainly possible that to you a person is being rude, but to them they are just being their average selves, and living what is viewed as polite or indifferent in their culture.

2 is that they have possibly not been affected by the religious indifference that is in the US. To so many in the US, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, and often to say otherwise means your viewed as intolerant and bad. There, they very well may realize how important it is to have the right faith.

In their view, that is Catholicism. If your iew of a good Catholic is one who is open to change or who is going to listen to your preaching, then you would certainly be out of luck in a country without indiffrentism. You said that a strong Catholic there is one whom is unwilling to hear other faiths or to change their faith. I’d say that that’s not entirely wrong. A strong Catholic perhaps will hear other faiths, but he certainly won’t change his faith. A strong, good Catholic is one who is firmly commited to his faith and who believs in it’s importance. That being said, you said many were corrupt and did not attend Mass. Well those are not strong, good Catholics.

I would like to be amused. What do they believe?


#4

I think to get a wider understanding of your experience in this part of Mexico, you may need to search for influences outside the Catholic Church for what you expereinced.

You opened with telling us that before your trip you found Catholics open minded though this was not the case in Mexico and from your oberservations. There lies a contradiction for you. Does the root of this contradiction be in the Church or is it a sociological issue? Are Catholics that you know back home now suddenly closed minded like you perceive they are in that part of Mexico?

I would presume that there would also be a difference in how The Mexicans would perceive you as do Americans and also based on these perceptions their behaviours would be different too.

Catholicism is a world wide religion. The Church attempts to teach the same “Good News” but it is up against cultural bias which can create filters in the “faithful” from hearing the full extent of the message.

I believe what you have expereinced is more a reflection on the human condition rather than a reflection on the Catholic Church.

If you look at Africa, you will see discord in communities regardless whether there are Catholic or other Christian Missionaries.

I understand that the issues with VIetnam are more provincial stemming from issues going back to French Colonialism rather than the piggie backing of Catholic Missionary work that went on in 17th century.


#5

I would be very very careful slinging accusations around about leadership in other religions. There have been some notorious Mormon leaders who sadly strayed from the straight path in spectacular ways, and sadly many in America who judged all Mormons by their behavior.


#6

I would be very very careful slinging accusations around about leadership in other religions. There have been some notorious Mormon leaders who sadly strayed from the straight path in spectacular ways, and sadly many in America who judged all Mormons by their behavior.

A quick clarification is that my intent is not to sling around accusations. These things are real, and the question isn’t so much in whether they’re true but how they’re interpreted and reflective of the RCC - or as you mention, this can be the case in any religion; in fact in any government, party, etc. A group is often judged by the quality of its leaders.

As for early Mormon leaders, I must note two things. 1) that to my knowledge there are not many extreme cases of leaders doing evil things, 2) that often anti-Mormons like to pin the blame for anything bad on the Church’s leaders, which is usually where these negative views in society come from, 3) that today there are also very few cases, fewer even than there used to be, 4) that I have had little to no exposure to corrupt LDS leaders (in fact I greatly admire many), 5) that generally when something seious pops up disciplanary action is immediate, except in very few cases as documented in certain occasions (I’m sure that sifting through the anti-Mormon junk you could find some strange things, certainly).

Ignoring all that though, this isn’t about comparing churches. I never said in my first post that my church is better than your church, so don’t make it into that. Try not to get defensive, and if you are offended then simply don’t post. I understand that this is a delicate subject and I feel that by reading a few of these replies that some feel I am trying to attack the RCC in some way. If that is the impression then forgive me, it’s not my intent. I will reply to the other posts later.


#7

This might be a bit off topic but I think there is a Journey Home Roundtable about Latter-day Saints on EWTN at 3:00 AM Friday:
ewtn.com/tv/sep18_sep24.asp

Please tape it and view it if you get the chance. It might be of some interest to you.


#8

WELCOME!!

I appreciate the delicate way you have tried to pose your question, and will give you my best advice.

I think that if you hang around here and ask some questions, you will see what knowledgable Catholics think, do, practice, etc. Ask questions about the things you don’t understand (Mary, the Eucharist, etc.), and simply ask to be explained what Catholics believe about these things. As long as you’re not challenging the beliefs (which so far you haven’t), you should get a warm response. Some here are a little jaded by the constant charges of idolatry, paganism, etc., so they are apt to jump to defend the faith - please don’t hold it against them, as they are simply passionate about what they believe. Again, as long as you ask to be explained the belief you should meet with very warm responses.

I think that if you do this, you will see the fruit that Catholics can bear. Additionally, you might want to take the advice above and look into the lives of the Saints. Specifically, I would google “catholic saints 20th century america”. These are the stories that don’t get told by the media, but that knock your socks off with the power of God!

I hope that helps.

God Bless,
RyanL


#9

I think that in the process of writing down your impressions, you may have missed the answer to your own question. While you stated that you found Catholics in the States intelligent and more or less familiar with their faith, that was not what you found in an admittedly limited exposure (one city in one country) in another part of the world (You bolster it with what you admit is heresay, however the fact that you presented it has the effect --intended or unintended-- of reinforcing your limited exposure. You may or may not know this is a common polemical tactic and can lead others to doubt your good will).

Anyway, the very fact that you found differences between Catholics in this country as compared to other countries very clearly shows that the problems you say you saw is not inherent in Catholicism itself, but is a result, perhaps, of cultural or sociological differences (like weak government, poverty, or illiteracy), or your perception of them. If the problem was caused by Catholicism itself, then ALL Catholics everywhere would have identical behavior. We would not want the world to judge all Americans on the the actions of a few boorish “ugly Americans.” Similarly, you don’t judge a religion on it’s worst examples, but on it’s best.


#10

[quote=Chris Jodrey] How can I improve my views of Catholicism? I like to see the positive, but I have found too much negative. I know there are good things about Catholics, as I’m sure many of you are good people. But from personal experience I have a sort of yucky feeling in my mouth when I think about Catholics now. There is probably more to the picture, and that is what I want to know. I think that simple exposure to a positive influence can help, which is why I’m here. So let’s talk about it a bit. Any personal experiences or views are fine. Oh, and sorry this post is so long. :slight_smile:
[/quote]

If you want to see the ‘other’ side, go visit a place like Franciscan University in Steubenville. Or if finances permitted, World Youth Day in Australia in a year-and-a-half.

One other thing that I can say about this in general: I don’t look at sinners, and evaluate their beliefs by their conduct. That is actually the approach that atheists use against believers. Rather than evaluate God on the basis of the conduct of the people who worship Him, they should evaluate God Himself.

I examine a person’s beliefs on merit alone, not on conduct.


#11

I would think that you have answered your own question here, if you look at your experiences logically: you have found that people in one geographic area aren’t practicing their faith in the same way as in another area. Logically, then, the answer is not, “this religion is bad”, but rather the differences are probably due to culture, etc. Wouldn’t that be a reasonable assessment to make? I don’t understand the logic of assessing Catholicism, not by looking at the lives and habits of faithful Catholics, but instead looking at those who are not.

I have heard some stories on the radio, testimonies from ex-LDS women who have described horrendous abuses, abuses that never made it to the mainstream news or to the courts (the courts being run by LDS men). Should I judge the whole LDS religion on those reports and the fact that, overall, my personal experiences with LDS members has not been pleasant? No. Sure, it’s true that “by your fruits you shall know them”, but then it is incumbent to look at the fruits, not at those who never flowered. And so I will base the validity of the LDS group on its doctrine, and will base my estimation of its fruits on the one LDS women I know who is faithful and who happens to be a nice person, not on the ones who aren’t. If you want to judge the fruits of Catholicism, look at the fruits, then. They are many.


#12

As a note, as someone who has grown up in Texas and still lives there, hispanic culture is incredibly different than ours. Something we may find horribly offensive may not even ilicit a response from someone of that culture, and something we may think nothing of may be incredibly offensive to them.

It sounds almost like juding the USA by those in prision, or I juding your faith by those who have left it. I think there is something to be said for looking at a faith through those who try to uphold it vs. those who don’t.


#13

I have a place close to Mexico City, one thing I can say is compared to the United States Catholicism in Mexico has suffered to a much greater extent of persecution and poor understanding of the faith.

There are so many poorly educated Catholics in Mexico, yet there are many who through their cultural understanding of Catholicism are open to learning more. Many are very surprised at how deep Catholicism is and Mexico is very ripe for good Catechesis. There are very many crummy examples of Catholicism, but there are very many pious simple believers there that are great examples of what can happen even under persecution and poor learning of the faith.

This is a time for a renewal and it is already happening, it just is happening in some places quicker and more fruitfully than others.
I would read about the Mexican Martyrs just to get a little bit clearer view of Mexico and Catholicism.
Here are just a couple quick links for you

epcc.edu/ftp/Homes/monicaw/borderlands/21_cristeros.htm

cswusa.com/Countries/Mexico.htm

God Bless
Scylla


#14

These are some good responses. I will try to reply to a few of the points brought up, from the beginning, but first a general remark that some have made, that looking at a group of people and generalizing it is not a good idea, and that is correct. There is a big difference, perhaps between Catholics in that part of the world and this part of the world. Some things, like illiteracy and old cultural habits may have something to do with it, certainly, but I’m not convinced that this is the complete reason. Basically, things can have a negative, positive, or neutral effect on a person. The government in Mexico isn’t all that bad, according to my basic understanding of it. They do the best they can to help the people. Yet there are still problems with poverty, lack of education (which I think is quickly being countered all over Mexico), limited access and knowledge of technology, etc. Yet even in certain wealthy parts of the city where those issues are not apparent this kind of religous ignorance and apathy (I call it apathy because even though many profess and proclaim, their actions show the contrary). That might be because of saturation from other parts. Who knows.

But this is also kind of missing the point. A problem I see is just that: the ignorance of the Mexican Catholics (yes, I’m applying a dangerous and general label there, but you know what I mean) and the good standing of the American Catholics (again, just for general grouping purposes). I don’t see it so much as a contradiction but as an evidence that perhaps the influence in each area is different, even though it should be the same.

I wanted to avoid doing it, but in order to show my point I have to compare religions. One of the religions I really respected down there was that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are generally good people, try to do the right thing, are zealous [sometimes] in a constructive way, study the scriptures, etc. In fact, they’re about the same here as they are there. The same goes for many protestant groups. Many there read the Bible, go to their services, give alms or tithing, etc, As is the same in the LDS Church there, which I probably had the most exposure to, the RCC coming in second. Although there are some differences between the two parts of the same religion that are definitely due to culture, they believe the same doctrine and behave in the same general way. I have found exceptions, mainly in non-structured belief systems, like certain protestant groups; I don’t think I ever got into an argument there about faith/works/grace, which here is a very common topic.

It is that discrepancy between areas and/or time periods that disturbs me more than simply seeing people that don’t do what they know they’re supposed to. If it’s all the same church then it should have the same influence everywhere, I would guess. Now, maybe this could in a way be compared to government. Sometimes a branch of the government can go bad and it needs to be corrected. Sometimes there is apostasy in mass quantity and splinter groups break off. That has happened with the LDS Church. In Guadalajara there are a few Catholic splinter groups, but they’re not very big. If that’s generally the deal with the Catholic Church in some parts I don’t know. What do you all think?

This leads me to a theory that I have considered before. To me it seems that in an area where the vast majority is of one religion those of that religion are not as strong in it. They use others as their support. This is sometimes the case in high Mormon populations such as in Utah or Arizona. When there is no real need to preach or defend your faith you may simply slouch into a state of spiritual atrophy, and I think this is true everywhere under every condition, to a certain point. So, in a place where 95-98% of people are Catholic it becomes more a culture of its own rather than a religion (which certainly is the case all over Mexico). Of course, that doesn’t mean that the people can’t make it their religion, but most don’t. And on the flip-side the religious minorities have no support of family, friends, or culture and so must rely on their own will to stay strong and get stronger, otherwise they fall. In my opinion, this has SOMETHING to do with it.


#15

Now, moving on…

DavidFilmer wrote:

It’s sad that your experiences have been so bad. I know others from other regions of Mexico that say the Faith is alive and strong, so I suppose it varies from place to place.

Well, I think that depends on your definition of alive and strong. If they mean that there are many Catholics there then that is certainly true.

Lazerlike42 wrote:

1 is the cultural difference. It’s certainly possible that to you a person is being rude, but to them they are just being their average selves, and living what is viewed as polite or indifferent in their culture.

No, I don’t think that swearing at people and yelling at children qualifies as well-behaved in any part of the world. Many people actually stopped going to mass in that village for that very reason. Mexicans are usually friendly, more friendly than Americans even. They are often also more easily offended.

2 is that they have possibly not been affected by the religious indifference that is in the US. To so many in the US, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, and often to say otherwise means your viewed as intolerant and bad. There, they very well may realize how important it is to have the right faith.

This brings up an interesting point. Many of them actually are religiously tolerant. They often say, “It’s all the same, all roads go to the same place, we all believe in the same God.” This is definitely because they simply don’t like any type of confrontation and don’t understand the doctrine, and in most cases they believe this.

This also brings up a question I have about Catholic doctrine. What is the official Church stance on that? Must one be Catholic to be saved? A while ago I know that baptisms of other churches were accepted as valid for conversion into the Catholic church, but if one does not actually convert or at least declare oneself Catholic can he be saved?

In their view, that is Catholicism. If your iew of a good Catholic is one who is open to change or who is going to listen to your preaching, then you would certainly be out of luck in a country without indiffrentism. You said that a strong Catholic there is one whom is unwilling to hear other faiths or to change their faith. I’d say that that’s not entirely wrong. A strong Catholic perhaps will hear other faiths, but he certainly won’t change his faith. A strong, good Catholic is one who is firmly commited to his faith and who believs in it’s importance. That being said, you said many were corrupt and did not attend Mass. Well those are not strong, good Catholics.

When I say good, strong Catholic, I mean one who A) keeps the Ten Commandments, B) tries to do what Jesus taught in the NT, C) regularly attends mass, D) is not given over to drunkenness, E) leads a good household (i.e. doesn’t beat children or spouse), F) knows something of doctrine and scripture. Actually, there are many who fail the entire list, far too many. In my book, a good Catholic, or any Christian for that matter, would have to be fulfilling at least two or three of those requirements.

As far as whether they would change religions, or even listen to someone different, that’s not so important here. If they really have faith in something then they will act. If there is no action then there is no faith. Maybe we might go so far as to say that even though many proclaim themselves good, strong Catholics, if they show the negative then they are not Catholics at all.


#16

I would like to be amused. What do they believe?

I once found a good Catholic family, an older husband and wife with a granddaughter. They were very friendly, serviceable people, worked for the Church as - I think they were youth coordinators, or something to that effect - and read the scriptures and supplementary materials and such. They were reasonable, well-organized people. This amazed me because I had been in Mexico serving for a year and a half and had never seen such a family. They were obviously strong in their faith, unwilling to change religions, but didn’t fall into the category of closed-minded ignorant pawns either. So I wanted to take advantage of that great opportunity and dialogue with them. We did so for about an hour and a half. Among his many explanations he told me that there are many people who have died without a knowledge of Christ, and that for them no baptism or knowledge of Christ is important, it only mattered how they lived their lives according to what they thought to be good. He gave me the following example: “If a Muslim walks into a building and blows himself and everybody else up, he’s going to heaven! He was doing what he thought to be right in serving God, and so even though it was a bad thing, it was also good, and he will be saved for it!” Now, I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that that would not be seconded by and Catholic authority. Actually they were pretty nice people, just liked to talk a lot.

LukeQ wrote:

Are Catholics that you know back home now suddenly closed minded like you perceive they are in that part of Mexico?

That’s a good question. The answer is no. I try to judge the individual based on his or her own self, not on something that he or she is affiliated with. However, I find it hard not to judge the affiliation based on the individuals. The one thing that has changed or escalated I think is my confusion of how a Catholic can actually be a Catholic. It seems illogical to me; but, I also know that many Catholics think the same thing about Mormons and those of other religions. It takes the personal experience to understand it, I suppose.

Catholicism is a world wide religion. The Church attempts to teach the same “Good News” but it is up against cultural bias which can create filters in the “faithful” from hearing the full extent of the message.

That is true and I’m sure has to do with it all. However, as I mentioned further up, this problem does not greatly affect some of the other religions there. How that works, I really don’t know.

I understand that the issues with VIetnam are more provincial stemming from issues going back to French Colonialism rather than the piggie backing of Catholic Missionary work that went on in 17th century.

History and politics of course has much to do with it. The same would be said for Mexico. Some old Aztec traditions and attitudes still exist in the Catholic culture there. It’s difficult to root it all out, but as I’ve mentioned twice now, that is not the case with some other religions. Of course, you probably haven’t experienced that as I have, so it’s something you’d have to trust me on.


#17

RyanL wrote:

As long as you’re not challenging the beliefs (which so far you haven’t), you should get a warm response. Some here are a little jaded by the constant charges of idolatry, paganism, etc., so they are apt to jump to defend the faith - please don’t hold it against them, as they are simply passionate about what they believe.

I understand, we sometimes do the same thing at the FAIR message boards.

Sherlock wrote:

Sure, it’s true that “by your fruits you shall know them”, but then it is incumbent to look at the fruits, not at those who never flowered. And so I will base the validity of the LDS group on its doctrine, and will base my estimation of its fruits on the one LDS women I know who is faithful and who happens to be a nice person, not on the ones who aren’t. If you want to judge the fruits of Catholicism, look at the fruits, then. They are many.

Several others have also expressed this, and I think this is what it all comes down to. Look for the good, not for the bad. My goal isn’t to prove the Catholic Church wrong. I don’t think that can be done about any religion. During these two years I think I have become a little more closed-minded and prejudidiced against Catholics, especially those from Mexico, and it’s not easy to change my thinking. I will stick around a little and dialogue on other topics.

This does leave one question still. What can be done about those of which I have written? Obviously a person’s religious observance matters to his eternal salvation. I don’t blame the people really, because most of them simply never learned the imporance of doing those things. As I’ve stated before, the leaders do have something to do with it. I’m not making accusations here, but stating a fact. Does anyone know of any remedied cases like that in the past? What is the general course of action to help those kinds of areas? That actually reminds me of another time, on preparation day, when we were in Puerto Vallarta browsing arts and crafts doodillies when a woman confronted us (actually the owner of the shop) and told us we were going to hell because we didn’t believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe. I got a little angry and told her that no, we didn’t believe in the Virgin of Guadalupe, but we do believe in the Virgin Mary, yet do not worship her. She said then, “We don’t worship her, we venerate her!” So I said, “I have talked to many, many Catholics who say they worship her. Why do they say that?” She replied, “Because they’re ignorant!” So I asked her, “Why are they ignorant?” She answered, “Because they don’t go to mass!” So I followed up, “Why don’t they go to mass?” She answered that she didn’t know, that maybe they were lazy. So I said, “In our church, when people stop going, we go out and ask them why, and help them come back. Maybe you should spread the word that they don’t actually worship the Virgin of Guadalupe so that they don’t go to hell with us.” She didn’t know quite what to say to that.

The previous story may have been kind of offensive to some, but it gets my question across. We LDS have activation programs, for example. What kinds of measures have been taken in situations like that in the Catholic Church? (Again, honestly not trying to bash RCC, just an honest question.)

Also, I will check out a saint or two. Actually, I have one in mind, Santo Santiago. I think he was the king of Castile when the moores were driven out. About a week before coming home from the mission I went to a festival in a place called Nextipac that was held in honor of Santo Santiago, which is why I’m interested in him especially. From what I know, when the moores came, his sister turned into a sword and his father into a horse, and he led out the army against them and drove them out.

Thanks for your responses, some of them were very helpful.


#18

I would say two things. First in response to the idea that a country with more people of a particular religion seems to have people less following the religion.

This might be hard to get across… um…

Take the US. We have X number of people. Of X, like 20% or so are Catholic. Another 60% or so are Christian. The thing is, in today’s society, saying you are Christian doesn’t mean much. It usually just means that’s what you were born as and you’ve never given it a second thought since you were 8. Of all the 85% Christians in the US, I’d say maybe 2/3 of them don’t really have much faith, they just identify themselves as that. For instance, have you ever heard someone say they’re Irish? It’s just another of the many ways of labeling people (and ourselves) our society has. When someone says they are Irish, does that mean they live in Ireland and eat odd breakfasts and own sheleylies (sp lol) and practice traditional Irish cultural beliefs and all that jazz? Probably not. It just means that’s what they were born as.

It’s the same thing for words like Christian and Catholic and Jewish, for the most part. So in this country, when only 20% are Catholic, how many actually go to Mass and don’t sin and all that stuff? But ask yourself, how many people who call themselves atheists do basically follow the 10 commandments? I’d say a decent number. That doesn’t mean they are religious though. What I’m getting at is that every country is going to have a large population, let’s say 65% for arguement’s sake, that just does whatever they feel like and doesn’t follow their religion. In a country with 95% Catholics, that equates to about 65% of all Catholics aren’t good Catholics. It also means that you have a much larger number of bad Catholics. In other words, take a country with 1,000,000 people. If 20% are Catholic and 65% are bad, that makes about 130,000 bad apples. Now, if the country is 95% Catholic, that makes 617,500 bad apples, which is much more noticeable.

Also, it creates a skew. Here, when you see someone on the street dressed like a prostitute, you just see them as a person who is being rather sinful. In a country like Mexico if you see this, you see them as a Catholic who is being rather sinful. It gets more complicated than that, because even when people just use their religion as an indentifer and don’t believe in it, they tend to defend it just like a Brit defends Britain even if he doesn’t do anything British. That means when you go to a Mass or go knocking on doors, a lot more people may present themselves as Catholics when they really couldn’t care less.


#19

Some things you may want to consider before forming a judgement of the Catholic people in Mexico is their history especially the persecution of the Catholic Church. Here’s two Encylicals that may help:

ewtn.com/library/ENCYC/P11INIQU.HTM
ewtn.com/library/ENCYC/P11ANIMI.HTM

Maybe someone else on the forum can help you find more of a history of the Catholic Church in Mexico.

As for questions on what the Catholic Church believes I recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
scborromeo.org/ccc/ccc_toc.htm


#20

Second, about this:

This also brings up a question I have about Catholic doctrine. What is the official Church stance on that? Must one be Catholic to be saved? A while ago I know that baptisms of other churches were accepted as valid for conversion into the Catholic church, but if one does not actually convert or at least declare oneself Catholic can he be saved?

Let me answer that by explaining how Catholics view salvation. I will make a rough analogy. You and I live on land. We could not live in the water because we do not have gills. If we wanted to live with a fish, we would not be able to. Similarly, you and I are finite. God is infinite. You and I could not live with God. We are not compatible. So at baptism, God basically gives us a scuba tank. it is called Sanctifying Grace. It is what allows us to live with God in Heaven.

Another analogy. If I went out and broke some law that I had never heard of, the police would arrest me and tell me that ignorance of the law is no excuse. They are leaglistic, as is our society. Everything has to be technically a certain way. God is not like this. God wants us all to be with Him. The only reason He would send us away is if we told Him we wanted Him out of our lives, if we told Him to go away.

Therefore, God does not see sin as just the breaking of some law. That is why Catholics believe mortal sin requires full knowledge and will. A mortal sin is simply an act by which we tell God to get out of our lives. A mortal sin is an act by which we take that scuba tank and give it back and tell God we don’t want it.

Now, God does have certain things He wants us to do. He does have commandments He wants us to follow. As Catholics (and Christians for the most part), we are taught all these things. Also, God commands us to continue to learn more about Him so we always know what He wants of us.

So, when a Catholic commits adultery, he or she is saying to God, “I know you want me to not do this, but I don’t care.” We are rejecting God in a very strong way by doing such a thing. We are giving Him back the tank.

Now, what about other people? Well, remember that what God cares about is that we love Him and that we seek and not reject Him. Take an evangelical I know. Masturbation is a terribly grave sin. To me, doing it would be to reject God and give Him back the scuba tank. But this evangelical truly believes there is nothing wrong with it. He was brought up that way and taught that Christ has no problem with it. When he does it, he does not feel guilty. He is not saying to God, “God, I care about this more than you, so go away.” God is displeased, but the evangelical is still keeping that scuba tank. God loves him, and knows He is not being rejected. He is not going to send the evangelical to Hell because nobody ever taught him the right thing.

This is why Paul says in Romans 14 that if you think you are sinning, you are. If you think what you are doing is something that rejects God and you do it, you’re still rejecting God and telling Him to leave you be. You’re still trading in that tank for whatever you are gaining by sinning. This is why Jesus says that if He had not spoken to the people, they would not be accountable. Since they now know that X sin rejects God, they are accountable for it. This is Why Christ said that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” This is why He said that a man who knows his Master’s will and disobeys will be beaten with many lashes, but a man who does not know it and disobeys will be beaten with few. This is why Jesus cries out on the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” These men were killing Jesus, killing God. It is the worst sin ever commited. It is the absolute epitomy of what mortal sin is: telling God to go away and get out of your life. But God did not count it against them because they didn’t think they were doing anything to God. In other words, you can’t reject God unless you really mean to do so.

continued


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