Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why Can't Catholics Be This Honest?

   Evangelical Christians do one thing that Catholics don't seem to be able to bring ourselves to do-much--they read the Bible, They read it over and over, and they read it seriously. And they know it cold. They can quote chapter and verse the way most American men cite football statistics. And I think they get it. And when they read it, and digest it, and believe what it says, they practice it. Most Catholics, on the other hand, are terrified of reading the Bible and making a mistake. Which would be ok, if they read the Catechism. But they don't do that either. What we are left with is nothing but superstition. The sacraments aren't magic, people. They must be received worthily. This is not rocket science, but it requires some effort on our part. Infant baptism confers grace, but if the infant is not educated in the faith and has no contact with a Christian who practices it, he will grow up spiritually handicapped.

     Bryan Fisher  wrote a wonderful faith-affirming post describing his own behavior when faced with the prospect of welcoming a public sinner into his church.  Mind you, he wasn't laying a guilt trip on anyone--he was dealing with a rank hypocrite, someone who wanted to live his way, not God's way, yet expected a warm welcome in Church;
I distinctly remember the day a man, a friend and a fellow Christian, slipped into the back row of our church and sat through the service. I had been informed that he was leaving his wife and was already living with another woman. I sought him out after the service, and asked him if what I had heard was true. He admitted it was. I said to him, "Look, Don, I can't let you attend this church as if nothing is wrong. You are not welcome here until you go back to your wife and make things right. If you do that, you and your family will be welcome here, but that's something you must do first." I never saw him again. But he was confronted with his sin and my church family was protected from infection.

Will a pastor and a church who does this come under withering criticism from the world? Of course. I myself have been castigated in the national media for my effort to reel in a wayward wife and restore her to her husband and her young children. But what should matter more to us: what the world thinks, or what God thinks?

If you're in the business of being a Christian, you sometimes have to call people out in order to save their souls. In the Catholic Church we have something called "giving scandal"--  sins which  cause grave harm to others. While we are very happy to chastize aborted women, how often do we identify and rebuke the men who are the cause of these tragedies? How many prominent Catholics have been married several times, conveniently attained anullments, and gone on to be spokesmen on Catholic television?  Or the former Super-Catholic who embarrassed himself and the conservative cause by his lack of self control?
     The beauty of literal-minded, plain-speaking Bible thumpers is that they really do believe it is up to them to rebuke sinners, and they take the definition of sin right out of the Bible. There's a poetry in that which eclipses all of the Catholic doubletalk about "stages on the journey" and "not judging". If you think your child will be damaged by watching a gay "married" couple on tv, what do you think it will do to your family when the widow lady who administers the Eucharist is having a hookup with the 66 year old divorced usher, or your best friend had an anullment because he read the right book, and he's trying his hand at a "blended family"?

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