"There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing." (Foreword to Radio Replies Vol. 1, (1938) page ix; Arch-Bishop Fulton J. Sheen).
Many people might be confused as to why I choose to worship in the Catholic faith as opposed to many others. After all, the Catholic Church is just a religion with a big set of rules made by a bunch of angry, contrite old men, right? Let's explore what we Catholics believe to be our origin:
The Institution of the Papacy (popes, bishops, priests) and Authority:
"18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19 NAB)
These verses are hotly debated between Catholics and Protestant Christians, and understandably so. The Catholic position is that Jesus is giving a man Jesus' authority on Earth to "bind and loose" teachings and Traditions so that all people may be guided by one authoritative Church and that the masses of people will not be confused at where to look when seeking spiritual guidance. The Protestant interpretation of this passage that the Greek word used for Peter (Petros) means rock or boulder and that "petra" translates as stone or pebble, and thus it could not mean that Peter was to be the rock on which the Church was to be built, because the Church could not be held upon a pebble or small stone.
Explaining the Translation:
In order to correct this misunderstanding, one must look at not only the Greek, but also the Aramaic which is the common tongue that was used at the time, and also the original language that was used in writing the Gospel of Matthew (the other Gospels were originally in Greek because not everyone in the region spoke Aramaic). The Gospel of Matthew was later translated into Greek, so it would also be more accessible.
As for this particular passage what would be said would be, "You are Kephas (Peter) and upon this kephas (rock) I will build my church..." In Aramaic there is no difference in the words used for rock and stone. In the original Aramaic, Jesus was using a play on words.
When it was translated to Greek there are the two similar words Petros (rock or stone) and petra (larger rock, like a giant rock structure, but not man-made), but there was the problem of masculine and feminine words. During that time it would have been unacceptable to give Peter a feminine name (petra), and thus the confusion in interpretation.
I doubt you will see many taking this line of thinking, but if you wanted to take the size translation literally, you could just as well say that Peter (Petros) would be the foundation of the larger Church despite being like a small stone in comparison to the whole Church itself. Something only God could do: Build an Earthly Church on the weak foundation of a single man.
Succession of the Chair of Peter, the Unbroken line of Popes:
As a Catholic, I believe that from St. Peter there have been an unbroken line of Popes leading the Church under the grace of the Holy Spirit, otherwise like Gamaliel said to the Sanhedrin:
"38 So now I tell you, have nothing to do with these men, and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. 39 But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God." They were persuaded by him." (Acts 5:38-39 NAB)
And also in Matthew 16:18 where Jesus said "...the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it." So far this promise by Jesus has remained true as historical record show:
Catholic Source, all the popes in order (newadvent.org)
Secular Source, all the popes in order (atheism.about.com)
I did not list a protestant source because although some denominations interpret Matt 16:18-19 to mean Jesus giving Peter authority, they believe in a break somewhere which contradicts the passage given anyways.
Authority of the Popes and the Church:
Some may be confused about something Catholics call Papal Infallibility. On the surface it may sound like we're saying that the Pope cannot be wrong under any circumstances whatsoever. This in fact is incorrect. Popes can sin, popes can be wrong, and popes certainly are nowhere near to being Jesus. But Jesus did give Popes the authority that can only be given to them by God the Father or Jesus. I may do another article explaining all the things Jesus gave ordained ministers the power to do and where it is found in scripture at a later point in time.
Papal Infallibility can only be invoked when the pope makes an official declaration guided by the Holy Spirit as head of the Church on a matter of faith and morals.
This means that if the pope said that all grass is the color purple, nobody has to believe it, but if the pope says, while declaring it officially, that something is right or wrong and it is not in contradiction to revealed truth that it is inerrantly true. Besides this fact, such proclamations are pretty rare since there is usually no need to invoke papal infallibility often.
Sinners in the Church and Leading the Church:
Although the Church itself is populated by sinners the whole collection of moral truth, doctrinal and dogmatic declarations, is perfect. The people who inhabit the Church are not perfect. The Church has had many problems in the past, inquisitions and abuse scandals to name a few. All these things are horrendous in the eyes of God and man and have been and are currently being dealt with today.
Concerning the abuse scandals, the Church has been taking leaps and bounds to clean itself and prevent these incidents from occurring again through many such programs as "Protecting God's Children". While it may be an impossible task to weed out every guilty member, one molestation is one too many; that all people can agree on. We are however, not the only denomination or organization having this problem; this is not just a Catholic problem, this is a Christian and a worldly problem. All guilty parties should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
The important thing to remember is even though all denominations have sinners and are lead by sinners, the Holy Spirit of God is its true leader who guides the faithful in truth. An example of this in the Bible in the New Testament in relation to the Old Covenant:
- "3 Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice." (Matthew 23:3 NAB).
- Though not an ideal situation, Jesus shows us an example of where God can appoint someone to teach on morals, but the human teacher acts wrongly. Ideally the teachers will be acting perfectly according to God's will, but Jesus warns us that this will not always be the case. Jesus reassures us that the verified teachings given to us will not be in error if they do not contradict his words or scripture, but to be on guard when sinners scandalize His Church.
- Personal Interpretation and Authoritative Interpretation:
- Personal Interpretation of the Bible and of Jesus' word is condemned in the Bible itself. Logically there must a visible body for us to follow so we are not lost amongst the many variations and contradictions among those who interpret things in their own mind.
- "20 Know this first of all, that there is no prophecy of scripture that is a matter of personal interpretation, for no prophecy ever came through human will; but rather human beings moved by the holy Spirit spoke under the influence of God." (2 Peter 1:20-21 NAB)
Conversely to this, a "discipline" which is sometimes confused with doctrine (or even called that mistakenly), can change. Discipline is how something is taught or practiced, doctrine is what is taught. For example, priestly celibacy is a discipline and was in fact changed in the past and could change some time in the future.
As a Catholic, what is my purpose of making these tracts and articles? I want people to understand my views, the Catholic view, and to see that there may be some truth in what I say in light of revealed truth by God. I do not wish to alienate people or call out beliefs or judge people. Out of love, I wish people to know the truth revealed to us by God and His son, Jesus. If you disagree with what I propose in this or any other article I post, so be it, but at least you know the position that the Church teaches and can judge my actions according to the truth she teaches. I would rather someone hate me for telling the truth than to love me while I told them lies.
So do I believe that everyone else is wrong? That Catholicism is the only way? Only if you want to misrepresent me. In a sense it is partially true. Please take all that I say in the context that it is given. The Church teaches that it has the fullness of truth and that all other religions and denomination, while not having the fullness of truth, do have a portion of the truth. These are just some of the reasons why I believe that the Catholic Church is the church for me and even for the whole world.
- There are thousands of denominations (some quote 30,000) of Christianity, and only one that claims to have existed for nearly 2,000 years can hold any water when it comes to historical fact and an unbroken tradition.
- I have find no contradictions in Catholic Theology. I challenge anyone to find contradictions anywhere, as long as they give me sufficient time to find the official Catholic understanding of the teachings. Same goes for the Bible.
- The 7 Sacraments are not found in many other Christian churches. I would not feel the grace of Jesus in the Eucharist if I were in another church as I have already been baptized and confirmed. Sacramental Confession is also a big relief after hearing the words of absolution from someone acting in the person of Christ.
These are just a few reason in which I believe in the religion and faith that I do. Because I choose to associate myself with what I believe to be the institution that Jesus Himself gave us to lead us and teach us the fullness of truth does not mean to distance myself from anyone who professes different views or philosophies. On the contrary, I hope that one day all faiths can come to agreement and common ground with all revealed truth. Though an unrealistic view to the world, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through God I believe all things are possible.
More quotes and Reading:
- "17 'Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. 18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.20 I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 5:17-20 NAB)