Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I have been told, at different times in my life, that I was not a Catholic by official representatives of all three major branches of the Catholic Church, the Novus Ordo branch, the traditionalist branch, and the Eastern Rite branch. It angered me each time it happened, but it angers me no more. I’ll gladly give them the title of Catholic and call myself an unchurched Christian.

What the churchmen and their lackeys fail to realize is that faith takes precedence over incorporation into the Church. I needed to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God before I had an interest in joining their church. I had a vision, not a blinding, pure vision like St. Paul’s, but a misty one that gave me hope for an even clearer vision in the future. And the process of belief is not radically different for a cradle Catholic. At some point the “vision thing” must come into play. Mere mechanical reception of the sacraments will not sustain a person who has not moved, through his own free will, toward the light.

I entered the Catholic Church because I thought my vision of the faith was in line with the professed doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. When I discovered, over the course of twenty-seven years, that my faith and Catholic doctrine were incompatible, it was not hard to decide what to jettison. Faith in Him is much more precious to me than the right to be called a Roman Catholic.

If I wanted, I could twist the documents as the traditionalists do to show how in theory I am really a Roman Catholic and those other guys are not. But the Church’s faith is more than its stated faith as expressed in various church documents. It is revealed in how the Church interprets and how the Church practices what is stated in the documents. And in that regard if I stated my main objection to the Catholic Church since the Middle Ages, it would be this: I object to the Church’s consistent and methodical de-emphasis of the importance of belief in Christ in favor of incorporation into the Roman Catholic system. The system, in Roman Catholicism, is more important than the person of God, and as an inevitable consequence, more important than the person in the pew. The impersonal faith of the Roman Catholic Church is diametrically opposed to the personal faith of St. Paul whom the Catholic Church claims to revere as a saint. Dostoyevsky, who had much in common with St. Paul, points out the extreme dichotomy between Christianity and Roman Catholicism in the Grand Inquisitor section of The Brothers Karamazov.

The Church de-emphasizes Christ and extols pagan philosophy in defiance of the hungry everyman who desires mercy and not sacrifice. It’s true that worldly success is more readily obtained within an organization such as the Catholic Church, but what is worldly success? Was not the whole world, before the coming of Christ, sickened unto death with a hope that was in this world only?

Protestantism as a reaction to Christless Catholicism was a necessary one. To be freed from the tyranny of pagan philosophy was a great blessing. But the desire for worldly success subverted much of the reaction. Calvinism, hatched by an organizational mind and adhered to by those with faith in this world only, gave Protestantism an anti-Christian taint that has still not been removed. It is certain, however, that there is a Christian undercurrent to Protestantism that has blessed the world. The sincere Protestants, pejoratively called ‘Christers,’ have kept alive an appreciation for the personal Savior that St. Paul saw and heard on the road to Damascus. It’s easy to sneer at the born-again types who talk about a personal relationship with Christ because they are so often the victims of mere enthusiasm rather than the recipients of divine grace. But their theology is correct: Christianity is about a personal relationship with Christ; it is simply harder to achieve than the born-again types understand.

The Master’s words about Faith and the child go to the heart of the issue. Before we are polluted with some organization’s explanation of the story, we hear the Christ story and we fall in love with the hero of that story. I know it was like that with me. And when I heard the Presbyterian Church’s explanation of the Christ story, I never quite believed what they were saying about my hero. When I returned to the Christian faith, having lost it when assaulted by the scientific world, it was to the Faith of my childhood that I returned, not to the Presbyterian Church. Catholicism only entered the picture because I thought, erroneously, that the faith of my childhood and Catholicism were compatible.

When C. S. Lewis wrote Pilgrim’s Regress, an allegorical tale of his return to Christianity, Tolkien told him that he hadn’t really converted at all, that he had simply returned to puritanical Irish Protestantism. But Tolkien, being a paganized Catholic, did not understand Christianity. Lewis had not returned to Irish Protestantism, he had returned to that first, pure, clean vision of Jesus Christ that was vouchsafed to him as a child. And he held to that vision the rest of his life, despite onslaughts from Tolkien, academia, and the brave new scientized world that surrounded him.

It certainly has been a master stroke of the devil to use the machinery of the Catholic Church to lead men and women away from Christ. But that’s what comes from aligning one’s church with the two smarter, but crueler older brothers and jettisoning the third dumb brother. It seems we never will believe that “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” But some Christians once believed it, and lived and died with contempt for the wisdom of the world. Like the forty just men in the old Jewish tale, they were and are the leaven of the church, and they don’t reside exclusively in one denomination.

There will always be some heroes of the Faith who will wade through the swamp of Catholic paganism and climb the mountain that leads to Christ. And they will do this because they hear a personal God of love calling them and not because a clerical salesman has invited them to join a religious country club for V.I.P.s.

The Sons of Martha have grown cruel. They have forgotten the gentle rebuke of the Savior and have made practical, worldly wisdom the whole sum of the Faith. Now, when the Church and the world it worships is more maniacally aligned than ever before against all things spiritual, is the time to assert one’s belief in the Fairy Prince to whom the Sons of Mary as well as the practical Sons of Martha owe their existence.

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