In class today we were reading Kaffir Boy. A book about apartheid S. Africa. My mind wandered, and I began thinking about Civil Rights. After that, religion. And then the reformation. Out of this tangle of thoughts, I suddenly found myself sort of disturbed. I realized, that the vast majority of Catholics at my school had no idea what made them Catholic, as opposed to protestant or other non-Catholic christians. At the same time, consequently, many Christians have no idea whats different about Catholics, and thus, do not investigate our church, assuming its just like theirs. This ultimately led to my conclusion that we are in a time of ‘identity crisis’ when it comes to our Church and religion… The following was a doodle in my notebook, that after the third paragraph, turned into a post for this forum…
Its important to remember that we live in a time and age where everyone is seeking ways to come together. Break boundaries, shatter the old, and see things in a new modern light. Such thinking has yielded excellent results: the Civil Rights movement, Female Suffrage, Religious Tolerance, and Ecumenism.
But as a Roman Catholic, who through independent study has realized the many differences between Catholicism and Christianity, Im starting to fear the dilution of my religion in the name of the latter of those great movements: Ecumenism.
The worthy pursuit of Religious equality, tolerance, and understanding has introduced into the Roman Catholic Church many new beliefs, these new beliefs are very incompatible with the history and doctrine of our religion, and I believe have infiltrated our religion under the guise of Christianity.
Its absolutely true that Roman Catholics are Christians, but as many Christians will profess, they are not Roman Catholics. That is why I personally refer to myself exclusively as a Catholic, and always as a ‘Roman’ Catholic.
Catholic means Universal, but Roman refers solely to Rome, in this case, the Roman Church which has its seat naturally in Rome. While I appreciate the rich meanings of the word Catholic, and the deep theological advantages of being in an Universal Church, I am also exclusively Roman. That is my religion. My religion is a religion governed by the Pope, it is served only by celibate male Priests, it sees itself (the Church) as an Infallible teacher of the faith, and does hold itself to be the only one true church (and faith) on earth. These are views many Catholics try to shy away from. But are only a handful of the many distinct, unique, and beautiful traditions and aspects of Catholicism, aspects that make Catholics…Catholic.
Thats why I’ve decided to start this thread. There are far too many discuscions that preach on the basics of christian belief. The saving work of Jesus Christ, the tenets of love and compassion, the omnipotence and mercy of the Creator. Don’t get me wrong, these are truths very close to my heart. But sometimes, they are all we talk about in our Churches and discuscions, they are the only things some people still know about our religion. And furthermore, but to a lesser extent, many Catholics are constantly trying to make their faith appeal to other Christians. This is necessary when it comes to helping spread our faith, but becomes disturbing when it has a negatice effect on us. I myself have noticed such behavior, I of course, am not perfect.
I can recount several occasions where I hesitated to sign myself after prayer when in a non-Catholic praying enviorment. I knew I would be the only one, and I didnt want to overly announce my Catholicism. But this example is subtle at best, a much more powerful example are the many priests (men of the cloth who represent our religiont ot he general public) who stand up publicaly and say things either completely devoid of Catholic identity (as in, the homilies which sometimes end up sounding more like Evangelical pep talks) or outright heretical; like priests claiming that all religions can lead to salvation (which jumps over my problem with Christian ecumenism going too far, it goes directly past dilution of doctrine into pure heresy).
Even though Catholicism is christian by nature, it is still a separate Religion. Many will flip at that statement. If we look up the word religion, we learn that one of its definitions are “a particular system of faith and worship”. In this sense of the word, our Roman Catholic faith is its own distinct Religion. Not to be confused with Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, etc. We are very different. And though it is good to bring up our common ground, it is not worth the price of abandoning that which makes us Catholic.
Remember that our Church has endured a revolution. A time when reformers and new thinkers challenged our beliefs. This revolution was both academic and violent, and many have suffered personally on behalf of both sides. In the spirit of forgiveness we should forgive each other for those transgressions, but in respect for the Christ, whom we believe founded our Church, and in respect for the millions upon millions of Catholics before us, who held onto their distinct beliefs sometimes at the price of their own lives, let us remember.
We are not Protestant, we were the ‘Protested’. And our beliefs have not changed. What was unique to us then, still is now. And what we fought for then, is still worth defending. I hope to discuss with some of you here, my thoughts and yours.