Sunday, March 14, 2010

mad magazine

The big news at All Saints Church this morning was that Fr. Tony Dickerson has asked Bishop Stika for a leave of absence from the priesthood. We were all asked to pray for Tony, who is a favorite of my family. It's got to be a tough job. There are many former priests out there including one of my mother's relatives. Fr. Tony got a big laugh a couple of months ago when he told the congregation at 8:15 a.m. Mass that he suspected they liked to go to church early so they can beat the Baptists to Cracker Barrel.

Bishop Stika has been in my thoughts for two other reasons this past week. In the newest edition of the East Tennessee Catholic, the Bishop responds to some hateful anti-Catholic propaganda that was recently distributed in Pigeon Forge. The story hit the local news just before my wife and I headed out of town, coincidentally to the Bishop's hometown of St. Louis. Because of our travels, we didn't realize that it made the national news too.

The ridiculous pamphlets falsely allege that Catholics are not Christians and that our belief in the Holy Eucharist was stolen from ancient Egyptian sun worshipers. I wonder if the author has ever driven past a Catholic church, much less opened a book to do any research about it. I found a great blog post written by a priest who is a convert to Catholicism. He quotes Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen who said there are very few people who disagree with what Catholics believe, but there are millions who disagree with what they think Catholics believe. I was reminded of my late grandfather who used to question what it was that modern-day Protestants were protesting.

The last bit of Bishop Stika news to cross my desk last week involves me more directly. The annual Catholic Charities dinner is this Thursday. I was invited to auction off dinner for ten with Bishop Stika at The Chop House. Given my experience, I hope I can get away with a joke or two about fasting and abstinence during Lent.

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Blogger alicia said...

have you read "Catholicism and Fundamentalism" by Karl Keating?

Blogger Frank Murphy said...

No, I haven't. Can you share a synopsis with us? Thanks!

Blogger Richard said...

After being raised as a Roman Catholic,attending Sacred Heart through 8th grade, and going to a Catholic Summer camp as a kid, I left the Catholic Church.

There were many reasons, and now that I've started studying the Bible more closely, there are even more, but the first step on my path away from Catholicism was when I was in 6th or 7th grade. One Sunday, the Gospel was Jesus throwing the money-changers from the Temple. The Homily was why every Catholic should subscribe to the Liguorian.

The hypocrisy was clear.

When the pedophile priests scandal broke, I was appalled to learn that in many cases the Church had not disciplined the priests involved, or even removed them from contact with children, merely moving them to new parishes.

The Catholic Church held it's worldly reputation as a higher priority than the safety of their children and the sanctity of the priesthood.

The Catholic Church,intended to be the Bride of Christ, has instead married the world. Jesus said that the greatest in Heaven would be the least on earth. You can say a lot of things about the Vatican and the Papal hierarchy, but the words "least" or "humble" are not ones that comes to mind.

This is not to say that individual Catholics are not or can not be Christians. Just like there are many fundamentalists who are in for a rude awakening come Judgment Day, so too will there be many Catholics who will pass as sheep, not goats. In the end, salvation is a matter of Grace given by God and individual repentance. By this simple truth, easily verified by searching the Scriptures, we all should realize that your status as a Christian has absolutely nothing to do with which church of what denomination you attend and everything to do with your heart.

If you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and you accept His sacrifice for you,and make Him your Lord and Savior, then you are a Christian.

At the same time, if you are a member of a church that teaches falsely, and you believe those false teachings, you will be held to account for those things. We are told to receive good teaching with an open heart, but to search the Scriptures to verify that the teachings are truly good. For centuries, the Catholic Church discouraged lay people from reading the Bible for themselves, making that a very difficult charge to hold.

Now that I'm studying the Bible, I'm learning a lot about how much of Catholicism comes from man, and not the Bible. As one example, the process of Beatification is completely man made, as is the powers that are delimited to the saints. I've not found a single verse that suggests that praying to saints or making offerings in their name is a biblical practice. Every offering made in both Testaments is always to the Lord. Intercessory prayer is mentioned, but it is the province of righteous men, not departed saints.

For a quick guide on the subject of penance and purgatory, you can always go directly to the source and read Martin Luther's Theses.

Blogger Frank Murphy said...

Thanks for the comment, Richard.

The abuse scandal was horrific and the church made many mistakes in handling it. I have been pleased with the steps they have taken since then to prevent it from happening again.

Obviously I can't answer for centuries ago but I can tell you that in my lifetime Bible reading is very much encouraged. We read the whole Bible at the Catholic high school I attended. I have also been involved in some scripture discussion groups at St. Finbar (Burbank) and All Saints (Knoxville).

The Catholic bishops have made the entire Bible available online in an easy to read and search format:

Just yesterday, I listened to the podcast of Bible readings available at that site.

The saints serve as role models for us. My wife and I think of them as part of our extended prayer circle when we are asking God for support.

Thanks again for your comment!

Blogger alicia said...

Frank, Richard, I would suggest that both of you read Karl Keating's book. It gives major objections to Catholicism that are quoted by fundamentalists, especially by ex-Catholic fundamentalists, and answers them in a rational and biblical manner. For example, there is a chapter each on salvation, infant baptism, the forgiveness of sins, the eucharist, the mass, the sants, mary, the inquisition - a total of 26 chapters.
I became Catholic after studying the bible and looking for the visible church that Christ founded.I wanted New Testament Christianity. After reading the New Testament through several times, I thought to myself that there must be some other writings from around the time of the first Christians that could give me non-inspired but historical data about how those folks managed the practicalities of the Christian life. I found the Didache, which was basically a religious ed text from the first century of Christianity. I found the writings of Iranaeus of Lyon, of Clement of Rome, of Clement of Alexandria, of John Chrysostom. Richard, in addition to reading the bible, I would suggest that you read the early church fathers. You can find most of them on the internet, or you can look for the book "Four Witnesses" by Rod Bennet, or "The Faith of the Early Fathers" by Jurgens.
About the scandals - yep, it was a pretty bad witness. Some priests, some bishops, were major sinners. Many more were gullible and naive, and believed the lies of the psychologists, counselors, and doctors who told them that pederasty was a curable disorder and that the best treatment would be to keep these men busy in a different setting. Jesus Himself told us that the weeds would grow up with the wheat.
Yep, we do have some mediocre priests as well - who don't do the world's greatest job of preaching, who are sometimes lazy or hypocritical. Happens everywhere. Scandals happen, and at least in the Church scandal is considered a grievous sin. I personally would like to go back to the medieval practice of public penance for public sins, but our current culture values mercy over justice, at least as far as sexual sin is concerned (consider a recent president, for example).
As far as Bible reading being discouraged - before Gutenberg, most folks were not literate. Couldn't read. Books were rare, expensive, and usually kept chained to prevent theft and damage. But the church made every effort to be sure that the faithful knew the Bible. How? BY READING IT TO THEM EVERY DAY! Mass, the liturgy of the hours, devotions of various kinds all included readings from Scripture. The stained glass in most churches would include a pictorial history of the life of Jesus, and often pictures from the parables. And in those days, it was not unusual for many to memorize whole books of the Bible from repeated hearings.

Anyhow, I could go on for quite some time on these topics but I have other things to do. Richard, if you want to read the honest Catholic answer to your objection, check out Catholic Answers - and you will find tracts on just about everything you mentioned. Jesus told us that He is the way, the truth, and the life - and that the truth shall set you free. And do not be afraid to read honest answers to your objections.


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