Friday, October 28, 2005

A Response to my Baptist Friend

My friend Bret that is a Baptist minister posted in his blog a while back his opinion of the priest scandal and some thoughts he has on the teachings of the Church. I have wanted to respond for a while and finally found the time tonight. I am not claiming to be any kind of expert in all the teachings of the Church, but through my own studies, searching and opinions I have responded to his post. The first part of his post follows and his words are in red. My response is italicized.

The ongoing saga of sexual abuse by Catholic priests plummets deeper today as documents are released showing years of abuse and denial by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nations largest Roman Catholic diocese. Tell men they cannot marry (or allow homosexuals in as priests), teach a system of salvation that says grace must be achieved before it is given and grace must be regularly earned to be maintained and surround yourself with an ecclesiology that hides behind ecclesiastically infallibility, and you have the perfect mixture to bake up the kind of scandal that currently exists in Catholicism. It is a system that is sure to make one feel spiritual but fails to actually change the heart - thus the evidence of which we now read.

There are a lot of arguments in this one paragraph to cover so I’ll take it one thing at a time. 1. Tell men they cannot marry – There is a reason for this in the Church and those that are priests make this decision knowing what the Church requires. They do this in order to devote themselves more fully to God and their parishes. A married man tends to have a divided heart and one that takes the vow of celibacy can truly devote himself to a life of ministry. It’s not to say that priests are perfect… all men are sinners. The scandal in the Church was highlighted because of poor judgments of those men and those in authority above them. There are certainly men of all kinds of religions, sexual orientations, married, and unmarried that have done heinous things to children as well. It cannot be blamed on the teachings of the Church, but the fact that some people seem to have little control over their sinful lives and have made bad choices. It is true that we are sexual beings, but in the Bible we are called to chastity. Marriage was designed for those that are unable to be chaste. Virginity is highly esteemed. In 1 Cor. 7:8-9 It states “now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, but if they cannot exercise self-control they should marry, for it is better to marry than to be on fire.” Once again, it is a choice. If a priest cannot take this vow, he should know that he has not been called to the priesthood.

2. Or allow homosexuals in as priests – I believe and many Catholics do as well that homosexuality is a disorder that some are born with. I think for some others it is a choice. You cannot conclusively dump the fact that a priest might be gay and thus unable to control his sexual urges. I feel that although a gay person might be more inclined to seek a partner of the same sex and unfortunately make a horrible decision to seduce a child, their orientation isn’t necessarily why they do that. It is because they are human and once again are sinners that do not seek enough of God’s guidance to help them through their temptations. Coming from a very sexual background, it’s a difficult thing to overcome, but not impossible. Look at my son’s father. He was absolutely not gay, but made very bad choices.

3. Teach a system of salvation that says grace must be achieved before it is given – This is not what the Church teaches. We believe as protestants do that Grace is a gift from God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states “Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” This grace is sanctifying grace that is received in Baptism. The Catechism continues stating “Sanctifying grace is a habitual gift, a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love.” Although grace is freely given to us, we believe that our salvation is a process that continues throughout our life rather than a single defining moment of faith. We are indeed justified by faith, but not faith alone. Works are manifestations of our faith. The Bible even states that works are a part of our salvation. James 2:14-17 states “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” So grace is a gift from God, we must accept that gift and have faith, but continually build on that faith and demonstrate it through our works. All of this plays a role in our final justification when we come before Christ. Our salvation depends on the state of our soul at death. Although 1 John 5:13 states “I write these things to you so that you may know that you have eternal life, you who believe in the name of the Son of God.” Although protestants take this that one can definitely know they are assured of a place in heaven, they must realize that this statement comes after four other chapters outlining what it takes to have that reasonable assurance. One still must live righteous lives and be in favor with God. Certainly if we have followed his commandments, accepted his grace, had faith and shown it through our works, then yes, we might be certain of attaining heaven.

4. surround yourself with an ecclesiology that hides behind ecclesiastically infallibility – I am not sure what you mean by the fact that the Church hides behind their teachings of infallibility. Just to be certain, you must understand that the concept of infallibility does not mean free from sin. It does not mean that the body of the Church, the Bishops or even the Pope is sinless. I don’t see how the Church hides behind their teachings of infallibility in any way. They make it clear to all their believers as well as those who do not agree with her teachings. Infallibility is simply the fact that the doctrine the Church teaches is true. It does not mean that the Church dictates every interpretation of the Bible to it’s members, but when it does clarify something, it is bound by Christ’s statement that “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” Although there has been a scarred past of Popes that were not even close to perfection and did some very bad things, none of their statements in regard to an official Church teaching has been against what is true within the Bible and tradition.

5. you have the perfect mixture to bake up the kind of scandal that currently exists in Catholicism – you sound as if that this scandal is all that the Church is about. It isn’t pretty, nor is it acceptable, but the Church is more than this incident. You cannot make a blanket statement that it is the teachings of the Church that caused all of this. If so, then you may have to explain the many abuses of those of the Baptist persuasion. ( They may not be grouped together as they have been in the Catholic Church, but they are just as heinous.

6. It is a system that is sure to make one feel spiritual but fails to actually change the heart - I beg to differ from personal experience. I can say that I have never had a desire to love Christ and grow in his word as I have since I began my journey into the Catholic faith. A change in heart comes from God’s grace and the free will of a person. The teachings of a church can guide a person on that journey, but you seem to be assuming that Catholics may be spiritual but are lacking in true faith. I feel that Catholics have a better idea of faith than many protestants as they are constantly working out their salvation through their faith.

Not that similar situations do not happen in protestant churches, especially the kind that care little for spiritual fruit as the indicator of conversion (not as the means to achieve).
Protestants have their own moral black eyes due to their own theological aberrations such as the weekly push for quick profession-of-faith prayers, thus populating congregations with unconverted people, the exaltation of pastors as celebrity personalities, the redefinition of corporate church life in terms of popular opinion, pragmatism and moralism, rather than a careful and humble submission the sole authority of Scripture.

O.k. I indicated above that you are right. Protestants have their own scandalous stories and issues. (Though I won’t necessarily point out in this particular post the problems I have with general protestant beliefs) I do believe that as a regular church-goer at Fellowship Baptist, there seemed to be a great push for those quick profession of faith prayers and attempts to grow the congregation. Those visitations to local houses in order to “win people to Christ” were most uncomfortable. I find that the Catholics I’ve gotten to know don’t push their faith on anyone and are more accepting of other denominations than many Protestants. They demonstrate their faith by the way they live. No, not all are perfect and there are some Catholics living in sin, but if I look at the group as a whole I see more true believers than I did as a Baptist. It is a relief to not be asked if I am saved.

A careful and humble submission to the sole authority of Scripture – Catholics seem to be far more careful with the idea of a careful and humble submission to Scripture. Again, they don’t dictate every interpretation of the Bible to the body of the Church, but they do clarify important doctrines. But no, the Church does not abide with the concept of Sola Scriptura for many reasons. The first of which, if the Bible is all that is necessary for living out a Christian life, then where in the Bible does it say that? There isn’t any place. It does state that the Bible is good and useful, but not the only source necessary. Second, tradition is called for within the Bible itself. 2 Thess 2:16 states “Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” People at the time of the teachings of Christ had no Bible. The Bible wasn’t completed until years after Christ’s final ascension into Heaven. What then were the Christians to use? Then you have to consider the fact that the Bible wasn’t readily available to all of those teaching the message of Christ. Some of those teachers had been followers of Christ directly, but many others were followers of the apostles. Therefore, the Christian doctrine was passed on through oral teachings and it’s traditions. There are numerous other reasons for the rejection of the concept of sola scriptura and I am not adequate to explain them all, but feel free to check them out at

Catholics and many aberrant protestant groups have much in common in their theology that creates a climate for such cases as described in the NY Times. May God be gracious to us to provide a genuine reformation in the hearts of people to adhere to the sole authority of Scripture that produces a singular passion for the glory of Christ, rather than creating our religion from the passions of depraved human hearts.

Once again, I don’t feel that the Catholic teachings in any way create a climate for the scandals that have occurred. On the contrary, the teachings of the Church are very much against such actions. But because there are some priests that failed as sinful humans, they have given the Church a bad name. But you cannot place blame on a few and assume that they made choices because of the Church’s teachings and it’s expectations of a priest. It’s not like a priest doesn’t go through a rigorous examination of conscious when deciding to pursue a life as a church leader as well as study for many years before becoming a servant of Christ. Adhering to the sole authority of Scripture does not mean a person will not sin. Once again, it is a matter of free will. I have far more of a passion for Christ in this Church that teaches that adherence to Scripture is a part of living a Christian life, but also that tradition plays a role as well. Just because the Catholic Church accepts both does not mean that their followers have depraved hearts. I see a total devotion to Christ in a Catholic mass. Since Catholics believe that Christ is actually present in the Eucharist, we honor and venerate His presence by kneeling during the process of transubstantiation. We also demonstrate this when we stand during the reading of the Gospel and by genuflecting when we enter the church.

I know my friend that we will continue to agree to disagree on various matters. I have wanted to respond with my own thoughts to your post for a while, but you know how time seems to get away from us. I feel that despite the fact that you are in a church that has doctrines that I disagree with, you are still a righteous and spiritual man with a true love for Christ. I admire you for that. I hope you don’t take offense at anything I’ve said. You are my friend and I love you as my friend.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

RCIA week 7

The Saints. That was tonight's discussion. I wish I had more time to read on the lives of the Saints, but it's on a long to do list of things I want to learn more about.

Eventually we will be choosing a confirmation name based on a Saint. I've kind of had mine decided for a while, but it's not completely definite. I will try to read some more. I found a website, of course, where I could look up names of Saints based on what they represent like St. Francis of Assisi is the patron Saint of animals etc. I was drawn to St. Cecelia as a Saint of musicians. The thing is that as I've read her story, I've discovered that she may be more of a legend than real as there is doubts to her story. But it is still a lovely story none-the-less. But the thing about her is that her Saint "day" is November 22 which is same day that my mother passed away. Some might think it weird to honor that day, but I see it as the day that my mother began her journey to heaven.

I am also drawn to St. Ann for a few reasons as well. One, it's the name of the Church I call home. It is related to my name (screen and real). And it's the first card on a Saint I received. I've also prayed to her to intercede on my behalf and all of the prayers have been answered.

So it's a lot to think about and more to read, but I do love having the Saints there for us. They are examples of how we should live our lives.

And since I promised myself to be in bed by 10 and it's now 10:15 I must go and I hope to write more late. I still have several things to post about, but maybe after the time change this weekend and I can get it done... but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Love Thy Neighbor

Today's homily was over the greatest commandment from the Lord. "You shall love the lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This the greatest and the first commnandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Mt 22:37-39

Father Phan put it very pointedly saying that Love is the action of the virutre of charity. We receive charity from the Holy Spirit, but to put it in action it must come from our free will. We can choose to love God and our neighbor or not. And we must do both. Loving God alone is not enough if we do not love our neighbors. Keep in mind, it doesn't mean we have to necessarily like them. But it simply means that we desire good for the other person. We don't wish harm on them. Which is good because there's a few people I don't particularly like, but I've grown to the point where at least I don't wish them harm any more. You know the idea of a "woman scorned"... sometimes it's really hard to show compassion to some people. But I understand it more clearly now.

There is a teacher at the school I don't particularly care for. He was supposed to help me in several ways to get my computer set up and get things going for me at school, and he never lifted a finger to help me all year until recently. As much as I have not been fond of this person, I can still wish him well. For me, personally, when it comes to relationships, I had to come to terms with forgiveness of someone before I can really show that act of charity. When Richard and I broke up, I was very bitter, understandably, and for a long time I wanted him to feel remorse, realize the mistake he had made, and simply be absolutely miserable. No, I wasn't the most gracious about it. But after some time and as I started looking into church again and feeling God's presence in my life, I finally came to terms of forgiveness. And when I did, it was such an incredible relief. It doesn't matter any more how much he hurt me or what he did in our relationship. What matters is that I forgive him and I can now move on. We are still friends, and I appreciate him as a friend now.

These commandments are the most important criteria on how we're supposed to live our lives as as Christians and it is the standard by which we will be judged.
If a person wants to know how they have measured up, we just need to look at this commandment? Are we loving God and our neighbors completely? If not, we need to work on our compassion. If we choose not follow this commandment, we really cannot call ourselves Christians.

It amazes me that people who claim to be Christians sometimes act in a most un-Christianlike manner. People that divide themselves and take on a holier-than-thou attitude because of denominations, social status, or whatever reasons they can think of. When I was teaching junior high many years ago, I would see all these kids wearing the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets and claim to Christians because they went to the every Sunday and Wednesday. Yet in the classroom, they would be bad-mouthing others, be defiant with teachers and not having any consideration as to what Jesus would be doing. I guess perhaps it was just a fashion trend.

I know that I still have work to do on my part, and I've been guilty of not following this commandment. But I'm listening now. And I understand. I'm growing and I do love all my neighbors... even the ones I don't happen to like much.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

RCIA week 6

I can't believe it's been six weeks since starting RCIA. I am disappointed that several people have been absent and have not come to every class. There are missing out on so much! I was late today and hated that I missed the first five minutes.

Today's topic was the continuation of the Bible and I did learn some things tonight that I wasn't aware of before. The Bible has not been a very strong part of my life and I admit I have yet to read it all the way through. But I have a goal to do that now and I truly hope I can and really get into the word of God.

Tonight a lady asked what the differences are in the Catholic Bible and a protestant Bible. We had discussed last week about the extra books in the Old Testament, but she wanted to know if there were any other differences. I brought up the protestant concept of "sola scriptura" or the idea that the Bible is the only source needed for living a Christian life. I have a lot more to say on that topic in response to my friend Bret, but I still haven't had the time to sit and get that post written. There is so much going on in my life right now... but it is all a blessing.

There's more I want to learn and do and jump in to, but there is just not enough time right now. But I'm not complaining. It is a good thing to have such a full plate these days and I wouldn't trade it. I love that I have Mass on Sundays and RCIA on Wednesdays. I love everything I am learning about the Catholic Church. I love the tradition, the elegance, the history, the beliefs, and so much more. I think that those who tend to 'dis the Church really don't understand what it's about or what we really believe as Catholics. I think that is such a shame as it is a truly beautiful experience for me. I am growing so much and I am so thankful for this journey. Once again, I feel completely blessed.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

A Catholic Meme

You scored as New Catholic. The years following the Second Vatican
Council was a time of collapse of the Catholic faith and its traditions.
But you are a young person who has rediscovered this lost faith,
probably due to the evangelization of Pope John Paul II.
You are enthusiastic, refreshing, and somewhat traditional,
and you may be considering a vocation to the priesthood
or religious life. You reject relativism and the decline in society
that you see among your peers.
You are seen as being good for the Church.

A possible problem is that you may have a too narrow a view
of orthodoxy, and anyway, you are still a youth and not yet mature
in your faith.

New Catholic


Neo-Conservative Catholic


Traditional Catholic


Evangelical Catholic


Liberal Catholic


Radical Catholic


Lukewarm Catholic


What is your style of American Catholicism?
created with

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

RCIA week 5

Tonight in class we finished up on discussing the particulars of the Mass focusing on the Eucharist liturgy. The more that I learn about the Eucharistic celebration, the more I want take part in it. I know I have to wait until Easter Vigil, but I know it will be truly special when I do get to celebrate having the body and blood of Christ.

My sponsor complimented me tonight saying that I could probably teach the class. Perhaps after I finish this year I can help with future classes. The more I participate in things with the church, the more I learn and confirm this decision. After we finished the discussion on the Mass, we started talking about the Bible going into some history of it. It's not new material for me but going over the information is letting more of what I've already read sink in. I am certainly learning from the experience.

I do enjoy the fact that our class isn't afraid to speak up and ask questions. It makes things more interesting.

My friend Bret wrote a blog entry today that I plan to respond to here in my blog soon. I think he's making an errant and general assumption about the Catholic Church. I know he disagrees with my decision to convert and has doubts about my faith in Christ and the beliefs within the Catholic church; but in the same breath, I believe he is wrong in some of his beliefs.

I'll post more later as I am gathering my thoughts on his post and I still have papers to grade, lessons to plan, and it's now bed time.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Being Christ Centered

Today we had a substitute priest. And his homily had a very resounding Baptist feel to it, but I do agree with it. It's something my friend Bret just mentioned. It's about our lives being centered in Christ. I feel that as Christians that should be our focus and our goal in our lives. But it's not easy when you've had other things being the center of your life for a number of years. Here's an excerpt I wrote about ten years ago regarding my religious state:

I guess I've become a cynic. I have little trust and faith in anything any more. I'm always doubting things, people, ideas. I consistently doubt sincerity. I always think "what's the catch?" or "they really don't feel this way." I am constantly questioning everything. Looking for motives. Seeking "so-called truths." Why have I become this way? I guess that a lot of it has to do with getting burned so many times. -- Yet I still seek those things that have singed me -- for the most part. Whether it is "religion" or "relationships." Yes, I do feel burned by religion. After "believing" that I was truly a "Christian" - as defined by Baptist terms - and then having to question my "salvation" because of others "realizations" it's hard to accept religion with all it's strings attached. Maybe it's dangerous to have been devoted for a while and to have learned what I did. I understand (at least I think I do) enough to be scared of such commitments. It's a change in myself that I do not wish to make at this time. It's a change that can' t happen without the spiritual desire inside of me. I still have my moments of curiosity. Maybe in some small way I'm seeking spirituality. I guess I haven't given up on the Christian faith--with all the books and music I've been buying up. But why haven't I gotten into reading the books and really listening to the music? What keeps me from them? I suppose I do have the intention to do these things -- why else would I have the books and music? It's just that those moments of spiritual awakenings come and go so often. (More "go" than "come") That's why I haven't gone to church in a while. The desire is gone for the moment. Maybe it boils down to the idea of cynicism again. I just don't know. Sometimes I get more into religion with a little outside push. (Usually having conversations with Bret that strike up my curiosity again) Can I depend on outside enforcements? It's fine to have them for a few pushes, but they're not always there. That's why I feel it has to come from within me. I guess I'm stuck in a rut. I think that a lot of this has to do with my need for control. I want to be the one to call the shots in my life. Do what I need to make me happy with a little help from God. Why can't it be that simple?

Christ certainly wasn't centered then and I had a difficult time allowing Him to enter into my life. I am now at a point where I'm opening the door. I still have control issues, but I'm learning to let go and let God take the reins now. And I know I'm making progress. My relationship with Christ has certainly developed a great deal since I began this journey and I know there's more steps to go. But I'm at least taking them now. I've come a long way since I wrote that excerpt ten years ago. I've been to depths that I don't want to get into again and I still have walls to climb, but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

RCIA week 4

Well, it's been a month of RCIA. I still enjoy going and time is passing so very quickly with everything going on. Although I'm still not learning a lot of new information, I do enjoy the discussion that happens in class and hearing the other questions that people are asking. Many are the same questions that I had as I was searching for answers. The thing is that I'm too impatient to wait for them. I have to look them up and find them out for myself. There's still a few things that I do need to learn and I haven't really taken the time to read EVERYTHING about the Church.
Tonight's lesson was on the Mass. Once again, because I've studied it and have participated in it for the past several months, it's something I already know a great deal about. But the video we watched tonight was interesting and I did learn a few new things.
I was disappointed that several people couldn't come tonight. I know that people get busy and things come up, but it would take a lot to keep me away. I can't learn anything or grow if I don't attend. It's like going to Mass... it's a mortal sin to miss it. I think that when one doesn't go it seems easier for sin to creep in. I think Mass helps keep us focused on God. And so far it has. I know that I could do a better job in my prayer life, but I do know that I'm trying to live a more exemplary life.
So my journey continues.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005


I read the following excerpt from my friend Bret's blog. Although we disagree on spiritual matters since he is a Baptist minister, I thought it was descriptive of my new journey.

If any one supposes that religion consists merely of self-denial and painful austerities, and that it is filled with gloom and melancholy, to the exclusion of all happiness, he greatly mistakes its true character. False religions, and false views of the true religion, may be liable to this charge; but the religion which has God for its author, and which leads the soul to God, is full of peace and joy. It renders us cheerful amidst the trials of life, contented with all the allotments of Divine Providence, happy in the exercises of piety and devotion, and joyful in the hope of an endless felicity. Heaven is near in prospect; and, while on the way to that world of perfect and eternal bliss, we are permitted, in some measure, to anticipate its joys, being, even here, blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.[2] We are enabled, not only to pursue our pilgrimage to the good land with content and cheerfulness, but even to "delight ourselves in the Lord."[3] Our happiness is not merely the absence of grief and pain, but it is positive delight.
If we loved the truth as we ought, we should experience equal delight in receiving it; and careful investigation of it would be a source of pure and abiding pleasure.

I feel that when I was attending the Baptist church many years ago that it was indeed burdensome to try and live a Christian life. Perhaps it was my youth and the fact that I didn't understand certain things along with my selfishness, but I never felt at home in the Baptist church. I found that religion didn't really help me with my struggles and it simply added to them. I've often heard people talk about the Catholic Church involving a lot of "guilt", but I can say that there was plenty of that back then too. This is how I responded in Bret's comments:

That is a very interesting excerpt. It's how I feel about becoming Catholic. I felt the other way (no offense) in the Baptist church. I felt it was too difficult and too draining. I have yet to feel like I don't want to go to mass. Even those days when I'm exhausted, I still feel uplifted by simply going to mass. I know you still have doubts about my choice, but I am thankful for it. I feel really blessed and eager to learn about God's graces now. And I am at a greater peace than I have ever been and honestly feel really joyful about life. It's been a long time since I've felt that way.

Bret did respond in kind to me stating: Jennifer, of course I still have major doubts about your choice to become Catholic. I don't doubt your feelings as of late. I also don't doubt your feelings in the past when you were at Fellowship Baptist. But feelings, a Christian do not make. Not that emotions are not involved, of course they are.

But I do wonder, have you simply become comfortable with yourself within modern Catholicism, or is your life truly converted to Christ-centeredness? Is it the love of Christ, revealed purely in the Scripture who you now whole-heartedly follow?

The only response I can make is that I think I'm still a work in progress... but I am making progress. I am certainly trying to follow God's will, I am building a relationship with Christ, and I am studying the scriptures so that I can truly call myself a Christian. I am by no means perfect, nor will I ever be. But there is more hope of me getting there now. I know I have changed. I have put a lot of my old ways on the shelf. I'm not so concerned about my relationships with people as I am about my relationship with God. I think at least right now I'm on the right path.

And he's right, it's not just about feelings although they are involved. It is a very conscious decision and effort on my part to devote myself to God's word. And I am trying. Like all relationships, they take time to build. So I'm taking those steps to know Christ, know His will, and build that relationship. And since I've been so terrible at relationships thus far, I know that it may be more difficult for me, but at least I know that God is not one who will abandon me. He's waited this long after all.