I start this topic to ask about a number of interrelated issues I was pondering recently about. As way of introduction I’d like to say that I was born in a cradle Catholic family. At the age of 17 I left the Catholic Church and became an Evangelical (with a dramatic conversion story and all), but then after a few years after my studies in Bible, Church Fathers and history I gradually came to believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church of Christ. Consequently, this is who I am today - an Orthodox Christian. However my studies also recovered my appreciation of Catholicism from my original Evangelical fundamentalist-like anti-Catholicism.
Recently I started to reconsider the claims of the Catholic Church to be the true Church. I must admit that I also discovered that I still have an attraction to Catholic faith from my youth deep at my heart. That’s why I decided to come here and ask few questions - to see if the reasons of my continuing rejection of the Catholicism are legitimate. I really hope you can help me in my quest. But, to the point.
When I think about my reservations regarding the Catholic teaching, I find that the most unconvincing or controversial to me is the development of doctrine. Before you accuse me of hypocrisy (‘Hey, Orthodox doctrine also developed!’), I would like to underline that I have more or less to specific instances of this development. One is the development of the understanding of Papacy and the second is the development of different, let’s say, devotions.
As for the first question - the Papacy. I have, I believe, much more sympathetic view of of the Papacy than the most of the Orthodox. Investigating the authority of the Bishop of Rome in the Church I came to see that it was something more than the primus inter pares. Yet it still appears to me quite complicated in the first millennium, as if there were two strands. On the one hand there are clear instances of appealing to Rome and its bishop with regards to its apostolic foundation, to its history, to its significance in the Empire, to its being beyond the Eastern Church filled with controversies and having more objective view of the situation. There is also something what I would call Petrine charism sometimes ascribed to the bishop of Rome and of course there is quite elevated view of this office that some of the popes held in antiquity. But on the other hand it doesn’t seem to me that the juridical authority of the Pope of Rome was clear throughout the Church, let alone his infallibility. I can understand that the jurisdiction of the Pope could develop over time, that this was a process in the Church consolidating all local Churches under the explicit and undisputable leadership of the Pope of Rome. As a process it could be tumultuous, with dissent here and there, I can accept such a vision. However as far as I know it’s not the jurisdiction of the Pope that was dogmatized in the Catholic Church, but his infallibility. And that’s a whole another problem to me, because I can’t see this truth universally accepted in the ancient Church. Once the other Churches agreed with the Bishop of Rome without questioning (“Peter has spoken!”), the other time they were rather eager to dispute the opinion of Rome. Of course someone can say that they were just disobedient, but if it were so, someone should have appeal to them reminding them that in such matters as faith one should not question the statement of the Pope as St. Peter’s successor. Here’s were I ask for help. As I said I can imagine the development of the jurisdiction of the Pope, however I cannot believe in the development of the doctrine of his infallibility when its not clear at all in the first millennium. It’s just does not appear as an objective truth (even if not defined) in that time. How do you, dear friends, see that historical matter? I can see usefulness of infallibility of the Pope, I can perheaps see Scriptural justification for it, but the history of the Church reveals to me a great gap between the possible Scriptural justification and the dogma from Vatican I. And I’d be more than happy if I could resolve that matter in my own mind and heart with your help
The second question is a bit like the first one. I know of numerous Catholic devotions, especially connected with different visions and apparitions experienced by Catholic saints (e.g. Sacred Heart devotion). Taking into account how great role they seem to play in the spiritual lives of the Catholics, I become quite overwhelmed. All those promises of our Lord or our Lady connected with praying specific prayer specific number of times or on the specific days… :hypno: And especially since those devotions revealed to the saints have such a strong influence on the Christian’s salvation, it appears to me very unlikely that God waited whole centuries to reveal the details of the path of salvation in Christ. I could understand the gradual development of the devotions from the early times, but the ones I am speaking about were, well, revealed in an instant to a specific person long after the Apostles, let alone Jesus and His Holy Mother, walked the earth. How is it supposed to be understood? For example as far as I know Sacred Heart devotion does not have really any precedent before the second millennium, yet I hardly can find today a Catholic teaching not making reference to it. It seems to have become like one of the constitutive elements of the Catholic everyday faith. It’s quite different to my present Orthodox view where practically most of the practices or devotions can be seen as logical extensions of some precedent. In Catholicism it seems totally different, there is a lot of creation ex nihilo I humbly ask you to explain me how you see that.
I would very much appreciate any relevant help, my questions are sincere and although these are not the only ones, I think that these are ones that strike me the most.