Questioning the Catholic Church and its Teachings


#1

Do you believe that is right, within reasonable bounds, to question one’s belief in the Catholic Church, presently under John Paul II? Is it ok to ask question whether or not the Church is really the Church? Is asking questions a signal that one lacks faith, or is it a sign that one’s faith is leading him or her to ask important religious questions?

I’m a cradle Catholic; so I’ve been brought up in the Catholic Church. However, now I’m not 100% sure if the Catholic Church is what it claims to be. The Orthodox Churches seem also to have good claims as the Catholic Church. In additional, I’m learning about some groups which broke communion with the pope in recent years. I’m also learning that much which I thought about the evangelicals is misrepresented or misunderstood; so I’m even thinking that they might be correct. I pray to God that He show me which way is the right way; but He doesn’t give me a definitive and personal answer; so I have begun reading the Fathers and documents by non-Roman Catholic groups which claim nontheless to be what Christ intends.

Anyhow, I personally feel that it would be wrong of me not to ask questions. I even discovered that there were Scholastic philosohpers who believed that truth would be found by questioning everything. You may disagree, and that’s ok. But could someone please cover some of the following topics:

  1. Is it all right to bring into question the Catholic Church’s claims to being divinely instituted and to being Christ’s Church?
  2. Is it all right to ask serious questions concerning what might be seen as serious discrepancies between what the Church Fathers and Scripture teach and what the Church teaches?
  3. If the Church authorities rebuff your questions, or inadequately answer them, can you honestly still believe in the Catholic Church even if you have serious unresolved difficulties? (in other words, can you still believe even with a thousand difficulties, though no full-fledged doubts?)

One of the largest problems I’m having is that priests and other Catholics tell me to go read the Church Fathers. So I buy and read these books. Unfortunately, many of these books are published by Catholic presses and are limited in their selection of works. Only those selections which support all the doctrines of the Catholic Church are included. Selections which are a little more controversial are not discussed in many of the Catholic books on the Fathers which I have purchased. As a result, I only get a limited perspective. However, you read an evangelical work, like the Book of Concord (itself a collection of works), and one discovers passages from the Fathers which seem to go against the notion of the Pope as having universal authority. I have found the same to be the case with Orthodox works. Ok, enough babbling. What do you have to say to all this?


#2

[quote=Madaglan]Do you believe that is right, within reasonable bounds, to question one’s belief in the Catholic Church, presently under John Paul II? Is it ok to ask question whether or not the Church is really the Church? Is asking questions a signal that one lacks faith, or is it a sign that one’s faith is leading him or her to ask important religious questions?

I’m a cradle Catholic; so I’ve been brought up in the Catholic Church. However, now I’m not 100% sure if the Catholic Church is what it claims to be. The Orthodox Churches seem also to have good claims as the Catholic Church. In additional, I’m learning about some groups which broke communion with the pope in recent years. I’m also learning that much which I thought about the evangelicals is misrepresented or misunderstood; so I’m even thinking that they might be correct. I pray to God that He show me which way is the right way; but He doesn’t give me a definitive and personal answer; so I have begun reading the Fathers and documents by non-Roman Catholic groups which claim nontheless to be what Christ intends.

Anyhow, I personally feel that it would be wrong of me not to ask questions. I even discovered that there were Scholastic philosohpers who believed that truth would be found by questioning everything. You may disagree, so here’s my poll:
[/quote]

If you view the Catholic Church as being “under John Paul II”, than I think you are doing the right thing by asking questions. The true church is not, nor ever has been “under” a man except for Jesus himself. Insofar as we probably have been taught that the Church is “under the pope”, we should question what we have been taught.

I do not believe that you will find in other denominations, the things you may find lacking in the Catholic Church. If you seek perfection from the leaders, even the pope or the Saints, you will be disappointed. You will not find perfection in the leadership of anyother denomination.

You will find perfection in the words and example of Jesus, the true head of our church.

When Jesus was confronted with the enormous failings of those who “sat in the chair of Moses”, he still told his disciples to have regard for their legitimate authority. I believe he would say the same about those who sit in the chair of Peter.

Look for answers, pray for wisdom, follow Jesus before all others.
You may find insights into how best to do that from people outside the Catholic Church or from people inside the Catholic Church. But anyone who would state that you are better off renouncing your faith in the Catholic Church doesn’t know the whole story.

peace,

-Jim


#3

[quote=Madaglan]1) Is it all right to bring into question the Catholic Church’s claims to being divinely instituted and to being Christ’s Church?
2) Is it all right to ask serious questions concerning what might be seen as serious discrepancies between what the Church Fathers and Scripture teach and what the Church teaches?
3) If the Church authorities rebuff your questions, or inadequately answer them, can you honestly still believe in the Catholic Church even if you have serious unresolved difficulties? (in other words, can you still believe even with a thousand difficulties, though no full-fledged doubts?)
[/quote]

Yes. Yes. And Yes.

I have doubts about every aspect of everything because I am a thinker. Thinking raises doubts like how wading into a pond raises turbidity. But then my faith is that much deeper as a result. I’d rather be waist-deep in muddy waters than only ankle-deep in a faith that is crystal clear. – Albert Cipriani the Traditional Catholic


#4

Asking questions per se does not mean one lacks faith. It simply means one seeks understanding, which is very natural since we are rational beings by nature. It still depends upon one’s motivations, that is, **why **he asks questions. So the answer to your three questions is Yes.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#5

My Parish Priest says without questions we cannot have faith.

I have always questioned everything and think it is very important to do so. Can be a bit tiring though! Eventually, you just relax. God’s got it covered!


#6

Madaglan,

I think you are suffering from the past sins of others. In former times, many Catholics were sinfully lacking in an ecumencial spirit. Therefore, dfferences with other Christians were overwrought and even lied about. I beleive the Petrine Ministry is a gift that God gave the world. I am very upset over “the sad divisions among Christians”. But the Church recognizes that even with this division, much good is present in non-Catholic communties. With the Orthodox, “we are so close it almost cannot be called schism”. They are true particular churches, the celebrate the eucharist, are a means of grace for their faithful and possess honorable traditions. So too with many of our seperated brothers and sisters of the West. In their communities they have sacramental grace through baptism and marriage, they experience authentic Christian fellowship, they are enriched by Scripture and prayer and the historic Creeds of the Church.

Yet, Christ did pray that all be one. We Catholics believe the Church possess the fullness of faith. But we also beleive that with non-Catholic Christians “much more unites us than divides us.”

Stay firm in your unity with the Universal Church but pray for the unity of all Christians and learn to apprecaite the spiritual riches and truth present with our seperated brothers and sisters.


#7

[quote=katherine2]With the Orthodox, “we are so close it almost cannot be called schism”.
[/quote]

The Orthodox disregard the teachings of every single dogmatic eccumenical council for the last mellennium. Us Traditionalists only disregard the non-dogmatic teachings of the last council and we yet everyone considers us to be in schism. Go figure! – Cheers, Albert Cipriani the Traditional Catholic


#8

[quote=albert cipriani]The Orthodox disregard the teachings of every single dogmatic eccumenical council for the last mellennium. Us Traditionalists only disregard the non-dogmatic teachings of the last council and we yet everyone considers us to be in schism. Go figure! – Cheers, Albert Cipriani the Traditional Catholic
[/quote]

Umm, the first key word in that quote there was “almost” – almost not in schism. The second key word was “not” – almost not in schism. You seem to be reading the quote to say either “almost in schism” or “not in schism” but not reading it as it actually was written, “almost not in schism!” They are still in schism, but they are closer to not being in schism than most other non-Catholic groups.

You also are in schism if you have chosen to refuse to accept the authority of the last council and the current validly elected pope. Refuse one council/pope or refuse them all, it matters not, refusal of any of them means that you are in schism (although you may be “almost not” in schism…).

And I am going no further than that, since to go any further would be to talk about the forbidden topic of sedevatican-vacation-ists-whatevers.

+veritas+


#9

Originally Quoted by +veritas+:

They are still in schism, but they are closer to not being in schism than most other non-Catholic groups.

I’m not sure if that is absolutely true. While the Orthodox for the most part agree with the Catholic Church on many issues such as apostolic succession, Scripture and Tradition, and the Sacraments, they are very much different, too. The Orthodox Church, from what an Orthodox friend told me, does not really include much of St. Augustine in its theology. Therefore, its concept of sin is different from that of the Catholic Church and the Protestant groups that broke off from it. While the Orthodox Church has the same number of Sacraments, the Sacraments are viewed differently. For example, the Sacrament of chrisimation is done immediately after infant baptism. In the Western Church we do confirmation only when a person has reached the age of reason.

In many cases, the Western Church and many evangelical churches share more in common than the Western Church does with the Orthodox Church. Many evangelicals have adopted the notion of original sin as presented by Augustine. Also, many of the more traditional evangelicals have maintained the Nicene Creed with the filioque clause, as opposed to the Orthodox who do not have that clause.

I’m sure Fr. Ambrose can tell you some more how the Orthodox Church in many ways is much further from the Western Church than are the evangelical churches. :slight_smile:


#10

[quote=Madaglan]I’m not sure if that is absolutely true. While the Orthodox for the most part agree with the Catholic Church on many issues such as apostolic succession, Scripture and Tradition, and the Sacraments, they are very much different, too. The Orthodox Church, from what an Orthodox friend told me, does not really include much of St. Augustine in its theology. Therefore, its concept of sin is different from that of the Catholic Church and the Protestant groups that broke off from it. While the Orthodox Church has the same number of Sacraments, the Sacraments are viewed differently. For example, the Sacrament of chrisimation is done immediately after infant baptism. In the Western Church we do confirmation only when a person has reached the age of reason.
[/quote]

Granted – however, they still have a valid Eucharist and priests, et etc etc. Thus, I consider them far closer than any other group, practically speaking (except perhaps for Anglicans who were ordained in apostolic succession). Heck, in an emergency of death, a Catholic can confess to an Orthdox priest and receive the sacraments. Show me the evangelical minister that can do that. That’s what I mean by practically speaking.

I make no claims to know all of the theological differences, of which I am sure there are numerous. I was merely making the point that if one is in schism, one is in schism, no matter how “little” you seem to be in schism… :slight_smile:

+veritas+


#11

Yes to all. One thing that true religion should do is to constantly pull you out of your “comfort zone”. As you grow under the influence of the Holy Spirit, you begin to wonder about things that never mattered before. That is a sign that you are growing. These questions all have beautiful answers within the Catholic faith, but you have to read and think and pray. It is really the ultimate adventure. Buckle up and enjoy the ride!!!
Paul


#12

Madaglan http://forums.catholic.com/images/statusicon_cad/user_offline.gif vbmenu_register(“postmenu_331092”, true);
Senior Member

You asked if it is alright to ask questions. Yes it is alright.

BUT, when you get the answers are you absorbing and accepting them. or do you forget them, and go on to ask a variation of the same question?

If you do that you will never find what you are looking for, “The Truth”

Madagan, look up the meaning of the word “skeptic”. This may be where you are headed.


#13

Originally Quoted by Exporter:

Madagan, look up the meaning of the word “skeptic”. This may be where you are headed.

I have worried that I might become too skeptical and so ask endless questions and never received answers. I think what I might have to do is come to a point at which I can go no further, and then make a leap of faith in the direction I feel best answers my questions.


#14

Madaglan,

The Orthodox often exaggerate their differences with Catholicism. I don’t think the Catholic Church regards their position on original sin as heretical. The classical Protestant insistence that original sin (in its strict and proper character of sin) remains in the baptized is condemned as heresy by the Council of Trent, however. So I’d disagree with your claim that Protestants are closer to Catholicism on this than the Orthodox are, though I see where you get that view (as a Protestant, I think this was one reason why I found Catholicism more appealing than Orthodoxy). Similarly, Orthodox chrismation is accepted as the equivalent of Catholic confirmation, and Catholics don’t see it as a big deal. Indeed, the Eastern Catholic churches have the same practice as the Orthodox and are full and equal members of the one Catholic Church. Same with the Filioque. From the Catholic point of view the Filioque is of course true but does not have to be said in the Nicene Creed–Eastern Catholics generally don’t. And today I believe the Church would see the Orthodox view of the Trinity as not being heretical–many theologians argue that there is a sense in which the Spirit proceeds from the Son and a sense in which He doesn’t. This is such an abstruse matter that it seems rather silly to divide the Church over it. I think many modern Orthodox exaggerate this issue in order to have a better polemical edge against Catholics.

In response to your broader question, I understand where you’re coming from, being a Protestant who has struggled with Catholicism for years and never quite been able to convert. I still have some issues that bother me, but on the whole it’s amazing how well Catholicism holds up to close scrutiny. Personally, I think that for you as a cradle Catholic there is no reason to worry about whether you “really believe Catholicism is the One True Church.” Bear in mind that claiming to be the True Church is historically the norm–the idea that we can have lots of different denominations is a very odd modern notion. It’s a notion that has a lot of practical common sense going for it, but you have no need to be troubled by the fact that your Church rejects it. Furthermore, the Catholic Church has nuanced its position a great deal in recent years. What it boils down to, for me, is that clearly the See of Rome has a rightful position of leadership and primacy within the Church. Also, whatever quibbles I might have on fine points, the major dogmas of the Catholic Faith are (I believe) correct. I’d encourage you not to get too worried about relatively minor issues. You belong to a Church that confesses the Trinity and the Incarnation, and makes available to you a rich sacramental life. Count your blessings and be thankful. Some of us are struggling with where to go as our denominations slide further into heresy. Some of us come from nondenominational backgrounds with no stable identity at all. (I fit in both categories–I grew up in a “house church” and became Episcopalian!) Catholicism is big enough to stand your doubts. Push the boundaries, ask the tough questions, but remain confident that the Spirit has not abandoned the Church and will guide you into the truth.

Repeat this to yourself every day: the only valid reason for abandoning communion with the See of Rome is total apostasy, which has not happened yet (and in my opinion will never happen). Nothing else makes the grade. The Protestants mistakenly thought such apostasy had happened, and we are paying for their error five hundred years later.

In Christ,

Edwin


#15

When in doubt, go to the source. I had a spiritual conversion 5 1/2 years ago. After visiting an apparition site and experiencing things that only God could do, I came away wanting to know EVERYTHING about my faith. I started with the bible and read it through–EVERY WORD. Then I read Church History (Laux), How the Reformation Happened (Hillaire Belloc), This is the Faith (Cannon Francis Ripley), parts of the Catechism, and MANY other books on Church Fathers, books (like the Surprised by Truth series by Patrick Madrid) by Catholic apologists, and books by and about saints like Theresa of Avila, John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Liseaux, and, well, you get the idea.

Now I am in love with my faith, but I KNOW what I believe and what my church is REALLY about. You can learn a lot also on EWTN radio and TV.

I just talked to my pastor today about starting a program to educate adults in the parish on our faith. We will have weekly sessions where we show one of Fr. John Corapi’s tapes on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (He recorded 24 tapes with 2 1-hour talks on them). After one of the one hour programs on tape, we will have a half-hour discussion led by one of the priests or the deacon in our church. There will also be light refreshments.

The purpose of this is to help adults who, like me, never really learned their faith growing up in public schools with no Catholic practices at home either. We lose many Catholics to Protestant Churches who have bible studies that draw Catholics in who are hungry for knowledge of the faith. What they get is mis-information from anti-Catholc bias. It may not be intentionally malicious, but born out of ignorance of Church history.

God be with you on your search,
Lindalou :thumbsup:


#16

[quote=Madaglan]For example, the Sacrament of chrisimation is done immediately after infant baptism. In the Western Church we do confirmation only when a person has reached the age of reason.

[/quote]

Bear in mind that the Western Church is not the only fully Roman Catholic Church. For instance, I was baptised Byzantine Catholic Rite, which is very “Orthodox” like but in full communion with Rome. We practice the sacraments in very different ways than the Latin Rite.

For instance, my first communion was immediately following my infant baptism. Also, the species of the Body is leaven and spooned out of the Blood. And our liturgy is quite different (liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). These are drastic differences in practice of the Sacraments, however there is still full communion with Rome.


#17

Originally Quoted by johnbeloved:

Bear in mind that the Western Church is not the only fully Roman Catholic Church. For instance, I was baptised Byzantine Catholic Rite, which is very “Orthodox” like but in full communion with Rome. We practice the sacraments in very different ways than the Latin Rite.

For instance, my first communion was immediately following my infant baptism. Also, the species of the Body is leaven and spooned out of the Blood. And our liturgy is quite different (liturgy of St. John Chrysostom). These are drastic differences in practice of the Sacraments, however there is still full communion with Rome.

Yes, you are right: we should bear those in mind. What I don’t understand, however, is to what degree the Eastern Catholic Churches adopt theologies of the Western Church. Is it possible to maintain one’s own more Orthodox understanding of sin, marriage, etc. and still be part of the Catholic Church just by acknowledging the pope? I don’t know a whole lot about this, so maybe you can fill me in.


#18

[quote=Madaglan]Yes, you are right: we should bear those in mind. What I don’t understand, however, is to what degree the Eastern Catholic Churches adopt theologies of the Western Church. Is it possible to maintain one’s own more Orthodox understanding of sin, marriage, etc. and still be part of the Catholic Church just by acknowledging the pope? I don’t know a whole lot about this, so maybe you can fill me in.
[/quote]

Well I would say first that there is a distinction between practice and dogma. For instance, I came up with the example of leaven bread used for the species of the Body. The canon law in the Latin church that mandates the use of unleaven bread for consecration for the Sacred Host is practice, not dogma. Little differences such as age of the person receiving the sacrament are of less concern to the unity of Catholic belief than the fundamental beliefs of the sacrament itself. I don’t know if I explained that well enough.

Also, unity in the church many times is based on lack of dissent rather than agreement. In this, I mean, that a particular church may not have as full an understanding of a truth, but this isn’t the same thing as disagreeing with that belief. If a church teaches a somewhat less refined truth (perhaps an error/heresy that required correction occured in the Latin church at some point in history but not in that particular church), or if that truth hasn’t been reveiled at all to that church, it doesn’t mean disunity.

You should know that historically speaking the churches (all catholic) operated somewhat atomically, and this is still true with eastern catholic churches today. Because most not Latin rites have dissappeared or become Orthodox, this fact is less obvious. The Latin Rite has been very accoustomed to being on a tight lease with Rome.

To answer you question better, you may not outright reject a truth of the Church and remain Catholic simply by accepting the Pope as the Pope.


#19

[quote=Madaglan]Do you believe that is right, within reasonable bounds, to question one’s belief in the Catholic Church, presently under John Paul II? Is it ok to ask question whether or not the Church is really the Church? Is asking questions a signal that one lacks faith, or is it a sign that one’s faith is leading him or her to ask important religious questions?

I’m a cradle Catholic; so I’ve been brought up in the Catholic Church. However, now I’m not 100% sure if the Catholic Church is what it claims to be. The Orthodox Churches seem also to have good claims as the Catholic Church. In additional, I’m learning about some groups which broke communion with the pope in recent years. I’m also learning that much which I thought about the evangelicals is misrepresented or misunderstood; so I’m even thinking that they might be correct. I pray to God that He show me which way is the right way; but He doesn’t give me a definitive and personal answer; so I have begun reading the Fathers and documents by non-Roman Catholic groups which claim nontheless to be what Christ intends.

Anyhow, I personally feel that it would be wrong of me not to ask questions. I even discovered that there were Scholastic philosohpers who believed that truth would be found by questioning everything. You may disagree, and that’s ok. But could someone please cover some of the following topics:

  1. Is it all right to bring into question the Catholic Church’s claims to being divinely instituted and to being Christ’s Church?
  2. Is it all right to ask serious questions concerning what might be seen as serious discrepancies between what the Church Fathers and Scripture teach and what the Church teaches?
  3. If the Church authorities rebuff your questions, or inadequately answer them, can you honestly still believe in the Catholic Church even if you have serious unresolved difficulties? (in other words, can you still believe even with a thousand difficulties, though no full-fledged doubts?)

One of the largest problems I’m having is that priests and other Catholics tell me to go read the Church Fathers. So I buy and read these books. Unfortunately, many of these books are published by Catholic presses and are limited in their selection of works. Only those selections which support all the doctrines of the Catholic Church are included. Selections which are a little more controversial are not discussed in many of the Catholic books on the Fathers which I have purchased. As a result, I only get a limited perspective. However, you read an evangelical work, like the Book of Concord (itself a collection of works), and one discovers passages from the Fathers which seem to go against the notion of the Pope as having universal authority. I have found the same to be the case with Orthodox works. Ok, enough babbling. What do you have to say to all this?
[/quote]

It is a mortal sin to doubt, a mortal sin against the First Commandment and the virtue of Faith. Modernists claim that doubt is good, but the Church has constantly taught that this is not only a weakness but also a mortal sin.


#20

[quote=CatholicCrusade]It is a mortal sin to doubt, a mortal sin against the First Commandment and the virtue of Faith. Modernists claim that doubt is good, but the Church has constantly taught that this is not only a weakness but also a mortal sin.
[/quote]

There is doubt and then there is doubt. Forgive me if I get somewhat technical. If by doubt you mean “I suspect that x (which the Roman Catholic Church teaches to be true) is not true” then I think you are failing to affirm something true. This would be to withhold assent (stop saying “Yes, x is true.”) by saying “x may or may not be true” even though what you are saying is short of denial (“No, x is not true.”) This seems to me to be acting in a way that is not in accord with the virtue of faith. This would be bad, and a sin.

But then there is a less pernicious (even healthy) kind of doubt. If by doubt you mean “I don’t understand why x is true, or how x is true” then you can still be affirming x to be true, but not know the reason or rationale. Remember, that true faith is ultimately an act of the will, in which the will commands the intellect to give assent to what the intellect does not “see” or understand on purely rational grounds.

Sometimes the intellect just has not arrived at the conclusion about what one has faith in, but the intellect could in principle figure it out. Some dogmatic teachings of the Church fall under this heading; the Church says that some moral teachings pertain to the natural law and can and should be understood by all rational persons (e.g., prohibitions against abortion and contraception).

Sometimes what one has faith in could not, in principle, be discovered by the intellect, and the only way we can give our assent to such a notion is to accept, ultimately on God’s authority, that he has revealed it and so it is true. It is the greatest, least reasonable truth that God became man and dwelt among us; our only way of knowing this is that he, Jesus, GodMan, told us so. Generally, people tortured by difficulties with doubt have no problem whatever accepting this greatest truth of faith! As you plumb the depths of such truly supernatural truths, every religious person would acknowledge that they do in fact resonate with the deepest spiritual parts of themselves, and so religious experience can and often does confirm them (e.g., Our Lord’s presence in the Eucharist). But one should be careful that such resonance is not the criterion of truth. (This can easily devolve into mere feeling.)

Ultimately matters of true supernatural faith will be somewhat unsatisfying on a rational level, and do require us to cooperate with God’s grace to assent to what he has revealed. (There will be leaps.) Even the mystic needs faith (I personally believe the incomplete nature of faith is the source of “the dark night of the soul”). We will not know God as he is, and as we are meant to, until we (God willing) reach heaven. But the doubts where you acknowledge the limitations of reason are good either to (a) figure out what can be figured out, and so have a surer basis for what you believe, or (b) become aware of the limitations of rational understanding, and so marvel and rejoice in the gift of faith.

I would caution against skepticism, though, as well. There comes a point where the answer, such as it is, is given, and it is no longer appropriate to pursue that line of questions. I have known some very smart (but perhaps not humble enough) Christians who have talked themselves out of their faith. I pray for them.


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