Continuing my post from a few weeks back 🙂
Catholic teaching has been, from our earilest time as a community of followers of the Way, to listen to the voice of our pastors, wether that’s the earliest Apostles, the men appointed by them, or their eventual succesors. Scripture (in terms of the New Testament) did not enter the picture until after Paul started writing it. Then the other epistles came in, then the Gospels & Acts. It may come down to Scriptural interpretation – we had a community of believers (the Church) before we had a written document (Scriptures) of our belief. Even then, the canon of Scripture was chosen by the body of believers and ratified by the chosen few who were deacons, preists, pastors, bishops, etc.
I do not wish for the following to be taken as a judgment but rather an honest assessment based upon the personal relationship I know and am experiencing with Christ within myself. I do not see how an acceptable compromise on this issue can be reached between what is in your heart and where your church stands if a new birth as scripture discusses has occurred in your life. I would see your struggle being identical with that of Martin Luther who concluded that if Romans 1:17 “The Just shall live by faith,” was true then how could he continue to practice the demands of his church, and chose to remove himself from it. I welcome continued discussion on the subject.
Martin Luther rallied against a form of Catholicism that never officially existed – selling indulgences/entrance into heaven, preaching that it was *only* through works that one could be saved, etc. We had many over zealous pastors, preachers, bishops and cardinals who saw a great way to make a quick buck and went for it. Some were passionate and honest in their preaching, but they still distorted what they thought to be Church teaching. Since the Second Vatican Council in the 1960’s much of official Catholic doctrine has validated some of the concerns Martin Luther so famously posted on that Church door.
Be that as it may, the demands the Church makes are baseline demands – attend Mass on Sundays, celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, make some time during the year to fast and abstain, pray, etc. The Church demands these things in an effort to remind us of our call to holiness – to remind us that as followers of Christ we should act as Christ would – praying often, fasting, striving to lead a life that is without blemish, loving in thought, word and deed, etc. It’s an institution, so it finds institutional ways to call us to be more like Christ.
I’m reminded of retreats – on a retreat we make time and space to step away from our day-to-day lives and have peak experiences – transfiguration moments – which can’t last forever. The Church, through it’s long existence, has found certain elements to be important to the life of a believer (prayer, Scripture, almsgiving, fasting, community celebrations, periods of purgation, etc.) – so she calls her children to follow these. Some don’t, some chaff under the assault on their “individuality” and “freedom,” some hesitantly accept, some perform them only outwardly . . . but some respond to them, and are called to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
It’s for that reason alone that the Church continues to call forth to the community of believers to respond in certain ways – to develop and nurture a deep and abiding love of God.
So yeah, I will rail against the Church and assert the primacy of my individual conscience . . . and the Church officially agrees with me. The Church will continuously remind me, however, that the things I am called to are good . . and they have been around for millenia . . . and in my individual freedom of choice, I should at least attempt the disciplines that the greatest of our Christian saints & martyrs have used time and time again to nourish themselves and ascend to the heights of holiness.
Blessings & Peace,