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What are your views on the Catholic Church?
The Catholic Church has the same problem as all other organizations I’ve ever studied…it’s run by fallible humans. Therefore, it’s not a ‘perfect’ place to worship God, but then, I don’t think anywhere else is either. That said, my history with Roman Catholicism dates back to the days leading up to my wedding, over 49 years ago, and is therefore pretty substantial.
My wife was born and raised Catholic and when I proposed, she informed me we would need to be counseled by her priest. Being a rather unchurched individual at the time, though considering myself Christian, the idea didn’t pose a problem for me. When her priest, Father Aldo, told me I would have to agree to raise our children in the Catholic faith, I was taken by surprise but it didn’t seem like a deal breaker and the marriage plans continued. Once married, I pretty much stopped going to church, as I had what I wanted; a beautiful bride.
Between 1973-74, through the friendship of a couple of ‘hippie’ friends in the Jesus People movement, my wife and I became Christians of the evangelical sort, although we wouldn’t use that term to describe ourselves for several years. It was the years of subsequent spiritual growth, fueled in part by our participation in Bible Study Fellowship, that began shaping my opinion of the Catholic Church and led, around 1987, to us looking for another place to worship instead of weekly mass.
My wife grew up thinking that, as a Catholic, heaven was her final destination, but not necessarily immediately upon death. It all had to do with sins she might have committed and their severity, and whether she had properly followed Catholic teaching on repenting and seeking forgiveness. Failure to do so before passing, could lead to a temporary holding pattern (purgatory) or missing the runway to heaven completely and crashing into hell.
Our exposure to a contradictory teaching and our conviction that it was correct, eventually made us conclude, just about the time our 7 year old daughter was preparing for her first communion, that continuing to worship at a Catholic Church wasn’t right for our family.
I will say, that it’s possible to successfully attend a local church, where the teaching differs from the ‘hardline’ doctrine of the parent organization. We experienced this at a Catholic retreat center in the Mojave desert. Authorized by the local Archdiocese as a church for the residents of the rural area of Yermo, California., we regularly heard Father Richard teach the same message we had learned from our Jesus People friends.
Unfortunately, people have had the opposite experience. Such an occurrence happened with Jim Jones. Ordained as a Fundamentalist minister, he later joined with the Disciples of Christ denomination and started his own congregation, the People’s Temple Christian Church, which later turned into a cult with tragic consequences for the followers. And that leads me to a concluding thought, which can help us all know what to think of the Catholic Church, or any other church for that matter…don’t believe everything you hear.
With the ever growing variety of ideas in the world, we run the risk of being led into beliefs that are misleading, confusing, and potentially dangerous to follow, unless we have a process to analyze information we receive. In the Bible, I think we have just such a method displayed.
Paul, an early hater of Christians is identified as an instrument of Christ’s, chosen to carry His name to the gentiles and people of Israel. He is considered by many to have authored from 7 to 14 of the 27 books of the New Testament yet in the Book of Acts, we learn something astounding about his influence over the people.
The people listening to Paul in the Jewish synagogue at Berea, were credited with being of more noble character that the Thessalonians because they not only came with great eagerness to hear Paul’s teachings, but more importantly, sought validation of his instruction by referring back to the words of Scripture already recorded. They didn’t believe this Christ appointed messenger just because of his position or the words he spoke but only if it conformed with what the Bible of their day said. Sounds like following that some procedure today could be a big help to many.