19 July 2010

Rock of ages

Cleft into innumerable bits

The older I get the more I understand that since I've been a Catholic all my life, not necessarily always a good or practicing Catholic mind you, but raised and surrounded by Catholics and constantly confirming my belief in the Church as an adult, I realize that I cannot fully see things from any other perspective, specifically relating to my in-laws. It's hard to put my finger on it; I will never have the perspective of a non-Catholic.

To sum it up, since faith and reason are united in Truth, why don't my in-laws move in my direction? Why, quite recently, would a close relation proudly proclaim his desire to leave the Church to become a Lutheran pastor? Why would he think, telling me a Catholic from beginning and to hopeful end, I would react with anything but sadness?

It seems my relative considers himself a "cultural Catholic" because he's never been the practicing sort. But, he's still a Catholic, which places him in an entirely different category than the rest. I've prayed for my proverbial big ol' snow-covered dung hill of Lutheran in-laws, but even though I can't completely understand how they can turn off (or have killed as Father Corapi would warn) the nudgings that I'm certain they receive from their consciences, I expected more from this particular relative -- a move towards Rome instead of away.

Not until I started reading Karl Keating's, Catholicism and Fundamentalism - The Attack on Romanism by Bible Christians*, did I understand more clearly why this in-law's revelation, despite us not being extremely close, so disturbed me. It was the feeling of betrayal, the sense of loss, and the sadness.
What few practicing Catholics can imagine is that they might chuck Catholicism for something like fundamentalism, to which they are not drawn at all. Still, they know that people of their acquaintance, people from their own parishes, have made the transition, and are seemingly none the worse for wear. These former Catholics function the same way on the job, and shop at the same malls. They seem largely unchanged by their newfound faith.

Despite that, their conversion is taken as a betrayal because it is a denial. A change to Eastern Orthodoxy or Anglo-Catholicism is more an adjustment than a real switch; even becoming a lapsed Catholic makes sense, since it is a matter of letting spiritual indolence take control. But fundamentalism? To embrace it is to reject Catholicism outright, because fundamentalism does not just modify, but discards, the sacramental and liturgical core of Catholicism. One might as well subscribe to an obscure Eastern cult. To most Catholics, that would be just as sensible.

My in-law told me he would "always appreciate his (soon-to-be discarded) Catholic Faith." To me this is completely nonsensical and there's not even a good analogy for it. Possibly, "I will always appreciate the medicine that saves me from illness but I choose not to refill the prescription?"

But it didn't stop there.

"God is calling me to be a Lutheran pastor and I'm going to bring people to Jesus. You have to appreciate that God is calling me to do this."

Further, the notion that we, as a collective of Christians, have to evangelize others against "Islam."

Since this was all a shot across the bow, I was totally unprepared. As Karl Keating also said, knowing how to argue is just as important as knowing what to argue. I think I failed on both counts. However, I didn't stay on the ropes.

On the Islam point, I explained that Mohammedism and Protestantism were both heresies and talked about how the Pope is meant to be a bridge builder. (I didn't mention that if all of united Christendom didn't eliminate the heresy of Mohammedism centuries ago, why would he think that a bunch of disparate Christians would fare any better today.)

I also told him that I completely disagreed with his desire to leave the Church and that God would never lead him away from the fullness of Truth. To the comment meant to get some concession out of me about "appreciating" his path, I told him I didn't have to appreciate anyone leaving the Church. As his in-law and fellow Christian I would love him and always pray for him, but in no way did I appreciate this endeavor.

Not the most charitable, probably not the most efficacious, but not completely milque-toast. If God wants me to do any apologetics, He's going to have to provide all of it for me, every last drop.

*This is not to equate Lutherans with fundamentalists

Photo translation from Bulgarian (so it said): This is not a dung-hill. Violators will be fined


Chris said...

This couldn't be applied to all ex-Catholics, of course, but when I was still an evangelical, I found that the ex-Catholics I met knew less about Catholic doctrine than I did.

Which could explain why I eventually became Catholic....

As to folks who are raised Protestant, I think it's safe to say that most of them have never heard a good, thorough explanation of Catholic doctrine. Certainly I didn't understand there was a concept called 'the Real Presence' until I was in my early 40s.


swissmiss said...

I really don't think my in-law, like you said, understands what he is leaving. He said, "Well, he [my husband] went the other way [to Catholicism from Lutheranism], so it's the same thing." It's not a reversible engine, some paths are dead ends.

Like I think I said at pizza, your perspective as a convert is so refreshing!!

I thought your next birthday was your 40th ;)

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: To Bede you listen! :-) Good point, Bede.

Your -IL could bring souls to Christ as a Catholic. I'm curious to know why he thinks that may not be possible as he listed that as a reason for his conversion. It could be, as Bede indicated, he knows more about Lutheranism than he really knows about Catholicism.

swissmiss said...

Sadly, like many Catholics, I think he knows little of Catholicism and even less of Lutheranism...strictly speaking. From my limited understanding, most parishes tend to follow the interests the pastor, I could be very wrong, but whatever Lutheranism he has gotten has been the interpretation of one man's interpretation of another (Luther). BTW: This is an ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) parish, which is even more liberal than the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) that my in-laws used to attend on occasion.

Chris said...

Missouri Synod is, on the whole, a pretty conservative brand of Lutheranism. But just like among Catholics, individual churches can range from uber-liberal to ultra-conservative.

And thanks... but I'm afraid my next birthday is 40+10!

swissmiss said...

Hubby's uncle (by marriage) is either a WELS or LCMS pastor. Way conservative. However, hubby also had a great-aunt who was a Benedictine sister.