My favorite thing is to watch or read conversion stories. One resource on YouTube is the Precious Testimonies channel. A recent video they posted, however, attacked the Catholic Church in particular, as if its members weren’t Christian at all, which didn’t sit well with me for some reason. And the sentiment of the video was echoed by commenters who spoke of the evils of ‘idolatry’ towards Mary and the saints, and how Jesus wants a relationship, not a religion.
Where I live
I think the gulf between Protestants and Catholics in the Philippines is not as wide, compared to elsewhere. I gave copies of my latest book on my conversion to Protestant friends, and I don’t think they took that badly. The Philippine situation comes partly out of a genuine respect for others and their views, but also, unfortunately, due to miseducation in Catholicism to the point where it’s considered as just one of many denominations, each one’s errors negligible enough for Jesus to set aside when His judgment comes.
Is saying ‘Lord, Lord’ enough?
So I wonder about the need to write this article to correct the anti-Catholic attitude of a good number of Christians in other parts of the world. What’s the point? I’m wondering. After all, accepting Jesus at all is already half the journey, an improvement over much of the beliefs out there. But I don’t think that the Holy Spirit wants us to trust in an automatic process by which to arrive at the right beliefs. If the thousands of denominations with conflicting beliefs is an indication, we’ve left too much to seeing how things play out without a duly-appointed authority that establishes what is true.
For example, some think making any graven images at all is forbidden, even though the Lord himself instructed this for the Ark in Exodus 25:18. The Church clarifies that the problem isn’t the use of materials as aids for worship, but rather idolatry, the assumption that such statues or the creatures they depict are divine.
There is always the danger of autonomous interpretation disguised as devotion to Jesus. And we know that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21) will be welcomed into His Kingdom. He wants submission to Him, and on Earth, this is fully achieved by communion with the Church He built upon Peter.
Are saints too dead to hear us?
But the Church’s critics would belie such authority on account of questionable doctrines it allegedly espouses. For one thing, saints are considered as dead, for which our prayers are pointless, or worse yet, directed to demons. But Jesus Himself says He is the God of the living, in reference to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 22:32). Hebrews 12:1 speaks of a cloud of witnesses that surround us who are yet here on Earth. We also know that the prayers of saints are valued (Revelation 5:8).
When Saint Paul speaks of those who no longer live on Earth as “asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4:15), that has more to do with their earthly situation prior to Jesus’ second coming, rather than their state of awareness in the afterlife.
Whatever reservations you may have about talking to holy men and women who no longer live on Earth, just remember that Jesus hears every word, and that He loves these people whom you ask intercession from. He could tell the difference between your requests for their powerful prayers (James 5:16), and channeling their spirits via mediums (Leviticus 19:31; 1 Samuel 28).
Humility and history
‘Relationship not religion’ ultimately doesn’t make sense. If we do want a fruitful relationship with Jesus, we need to work on our relationships with everybody else, by which we make a community of His followers. That is the Church. He wants us to be one (John 17:11), not in the sense of Him being a leader of troops making their independent analyses of His written word or who go along with what ‘feels right’ for them, but in the sense of Him being the center of each and every relationship we have, whether here on Earth, or in Heaven. We have been left with the objective data on who has received the interpretation of Scripture and tradition (2 Timothy 3:15; 2 Thessalonians 2:15) directly from the Apostles through an unbroken line of succession, though some falsehoods have to be dismantled in the process, such as thinking Catholic practices began with Constantine in the fourth century.
When Jesus calls the Kingdom of God a Kingdom, it’s not surprising that His Church, by which His will is to be done, would take on similar features to earthly kingdoms, including a hierarchical structure, and unfortunately, fallen, broken people even high up. Also of note is that in spite of her worldly dominance and ubiquity, the number of faithful Catholics is dwindling, hardly a sign that Church doctrine is responsible for today’s societal decay.
Almost too lazy to ‘work’ on the following topic
We need faith in Jesus to be saved, but such faith is reflected precisely in works, which on their own have no merit apart from our being graced by the Lord.
Only Jesus’ sacrifice, the perfect act of love, justifies us. But clearly, He values what we do. It’s all over the Old and New Testaments. Look through the Book of James. John 14:15. John 15:17. Romans 3:31. There’s no excuse to misunderstand Paul’s words on the primacy of Christ’s grace in relation to our works (Galatians 2 and 3). Very few take ‘faith alone’ to mean a license to commit wanton sin, but we can’t deny that it is possible to lose Christ’s grace after receiving it (Hebrews 10:26-29).
In all this, the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, which is pretty much the main reason He left us a visible Church, is neglected. In my years being educated in Catholic schools, the real presence was a side issue at best. I just remember during rehearsals for First Communion my being taught to say “Amen” after the priest said “Body of Christ,” but I didn’t know what that meant. It took me 30 years to find out! And if I had heard about it earlier, I might have made the dismissive remarks His disciples made in John 6, shortly before parting ways with Him.
What I now know is that if only more people open their hearts to His Blessed Sacrament, there would be less ex-Catholics grumbling about how the Church is out of touch, and how much more fulfilling it is in other churches, or outside of Christianity altogether.
John 6:53 says unless we eat His flesh, we have no life in us. I’m inclined to believe, or hope, that the Lord provides for the dispensation of grace outside of the ‘ordinary’ sacramental means, and this makes salvation possible for non-Catholics and even pagans. But who’s to say when we’ve received such a privilege? I suppose Mother Mary managed, being “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) even before the birth of Christ, and Saint Faustina once received the Sacred Host directly from an angel, but do we dare assume our being saved by merely professing we believe? It’s worth taking an extra look at the Church’s sacraments at least.
Christ’s Church’s Bible
In the current state of Christianity, the Catholic Church is the target of many of Christ’s followers. But only have them be more vigilant in critiquing each other’s interpretations of the Bible to find glaring differences in each other’s interpretations, and perhaps the pope and the institution he oversees will no longer be the main object of interdenominational ire.
How best to resolve such differences? For a start, maybe recognizing that there is no unity, no wholeness, in followers left to their own devices, left to decide what is good and pleasing (Genesis 3:6), with only ‘Bible only’ as their guide. ‘Bible only’ is in fact not found in the Bible, but a mere human tradition begun long after Jesus’ earthly ministry. No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation (2 Peter 1:20).
If you’ve gotten this far into this article, you’re in rare company. In fact, consider your finding of this blog of mine an act of providence; barely anyone reads it.
Might I also suggest for you to watch one or two episodes of EWTN’s ‘The journey home,’ or other Catholic conversion testimonies, and perhaps you’ll find several if not all your objections to the Church addressed. Check out Austin Suggs’ awesome Gospel Simplicity channel on YouTube. He’s a Protestant exploring the worlds of Catholicism and Orthodoxy up close, while remaining an outsider (as of this writing). I learn a lot from him.
Even if you’ve found a couple of holes in my argument above (I’m new to the art of Bible thumping), I pray it’s enough for you to at least know, the Catholic Church is not your enemy. The real enemy has been telling you that. After some investigation, you might even want to move here.
Did I mention I had left the Catholic Church as a teenager upon the ‘widening’ of my spiritual horizons? I tell about my recent return in ‘How to be Catholic during your rebellious years,’ available on Amazon. If you’d rather not support a Catholic book by paying for it, write me and I’ll see if I can give you a copy.