As a newcomer here, thanks for the forum.
I spent about 15 hours in a vehicle this week listening to Catholic radio in Texas. I really enjoyed the discussions.
I am not a Catholic. I was baptised in the Catholic church as an infant. My Dad was Catholic, my mother, Presbyterian. I spent a ton of time growing up with my Dad’s family, who would tell you they were devoutly Catholic. What that meant to them was faithfully attending Mass, raising four boys in Catholic School, and posting crucifixes and pictures of Mary and the Pope on their walls. They never taught me anything about faith or morality. However, they spent every opportunity-- a daily one-- demeaning my father and mother and uncles and aunts, cursing wildly, abusing other members of the family, and telling me I was doomed because of my father, and that they were saved and we were not unless I reverted to the Catholic Church.
I attended many Catholic masses as a child. In college, I explored becoming Catholic but could not reconcile certain traditions of which I still have found no meaningful basis in scripture. One of my professors was a lay pastor at the Catholic Church, and he welcomed me peacefully and instructively; never with condemnation. I learned from him and others that my experience with my family was not uncommon.
I believe, from my experience, that any Christian religion can get in the way of truth. I have seen it in the Baptist church. The Methodist church. My Catholic grandfather died being probably the meanest, most evil and abusive men I ever knew. My Presbyterian grandfather was just like a different version-- caught up in religion without any faith in the Truth. My father’s life was plagued by his parents, when he left the Catholic church after a priest told him his sin of paying for my aunt’s abortion, compounded by him marrying a non-Catholic, was unforgiveable. To me, the Catholic tradition was wielded and used as a hammer. It ruined many lives in my family. Now, the once proud Catholic family is splintered and broken. There was no grace for the non-Catholic in my long experience. And the divide-- among professing Christians-- was non-sensical to me.
I see and understand, having had the benefit of knowing some dear friends through the years who are probably more representative of the true Catholic tradition than my family, that much of the traditions Catholics hold to are the same as mine as a non-Catholic. I am under no delusions that the evil perpetrated by my family was of Catholic teaching. However, it has made me skeptical of organized religion and tradition. And I’m not alone. Many, many folks I talk to have been raised in a dogmatic Christian tradition, Catholic or otherwise, that left them feeling knowledgeable about ritual and rule, and inept on forgiveness, grace, and the life of Christ. It ended up leaving them empty. Coming to know Christ, however, outside of the tradition has been life-changing. For some, tradition is meaningful and helpful. To others, it rips off scabs of mistrust, abuse, and evil.
Presently, I host a small group in my home, and surprisingly, almost everyone there has a similar story-- maybe four Catholic and four Protestant. I attend a church focused on meeting those people hurt by their church, or having no historical basis in church. That is a lot of people in America, because churches, Catholic and Protestant fail to teach what is in actually in the Bible. I’m not saying every church. But the fact is, church and tradition has failed people over and over. My story is not unique. It is common. Christ does not let us down, though. He broke tradition; He didn’t just re-compute the rules. The veil is torn. Religion to me, and tradition exclusive of Scripture, holds too many variable risks of men’s interpretation becoming dogma. That is the history of every church, every denomination. Even the Catholic Church has spent the better part of 2000 years reformatting its dogma, rules, and teachings. St. Thomas Aquinas would not agree with all of Catholic church teaching today (I am just finishing a reading of Summa Theologica, where the Catholic editors felt compelled to explain his adherence to the teaching of the day versus present-day teaching).
In my own wrestling with being told I was “outside the one true church,” and perhaps subject to some unique cruel judgement because I wasn’t allowed to take Communion, I found so many Catholic traditions that seemed like answers to questions that maybe we could never really know. And if a church, Catholic or Protestant, teaches answers to questions based on tradition, and not Scripture, I just can’t buy in. I’m OK to not know everything. I know Christ. I know Scripture. I trust Him for the answers unknown. And now, I am OK with not having all the answers. I believe religion has done to Christianity what Jesus railed against in Judaism: it misses the Ultimate for adherence to traditions of men. Religion though, is attractive even to me, because I like checklists and tangible progress. Faith is tough and unnatural. Total faith in Christ, though, in my experience, is not religious or traditional at all. Faith is paramount; religion, secondary or even unnecessary. I think the truest form of total faith in Christ would be exclusive of organized religion. Jesus certainly blew a hole in the religion of 2000 years ago, that to me, mirrors today’s organized, institutionalized religion. I prefer to trust in what has been done by Christ, not what I may or may not be able to accomplish on my own.
All that to say I believe religion, and tradition, can blind us from the truth of Christ.
Thanks for the forum, and God Bless!