I grew up under Protestant influences in as much as the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible were heralded as final authority. Having experienced everything from fundamentalist to Baptist to charismatic to non-denominational to liturgical churches, I have come to realize that it is the individual Christian’s interpretation that carries as much authority as the text itself. The evidence is the brilliant colors of the fractured prisms that make up Protestant denominations. Unity is strained, even to the breaking point. The rebellion of the Reformation looks like a bad mistake.
So, over the past couple of years I have begun to read church history in the forbidden zone of time between the book of Acts and the Reformation in the seventeenth century. Having engaged a local Catholic community and observing as well as reading Catholic writers and studying church doctrines, I have developed some thoughts on the Roman Catholic Church.
The Roman Catholic identity is incredibly powerful. Catholics from numerous places within and without the United States can find instant unity at a single Mass. The rituals and prayers are all practiced and uttered in unison between people who have never met. It is quite a powerful moment to witness.
Much of the greatness of Western Civilization comes from the Roman Catholic Church. From the writings of early church fathers to the grandeur of the Latin language to artistry of the Cathedral to the literary heritage (Shakespeare, Tolkien, etc.) to the romantic ideas of honor and justice, the Church has been the soil from which these seeds emerged to make Western Civilization shine brightly in a dark world.
The Crusades were fought under Catholic Christendom, ensuring that the West remained Christian.
Marriage is highly exalted and the producing of children is taken very seriously. Things as common as divorce and contraception are considered evil, not to mention abortion.
The Catholic Church takes the presence of spiritual evil seriously. The authority of priests use the rite of excorcism to deal with things beyond mere psychological problems.
The Marian doctrines. Regardless of what the official position of the Church, I see Catholics worshiping Mary as much as Jesus. For example, I have uncovered the following ideas about Mary:
- Jesus was born perfect and without sin by divine appointment. By the doctrine of The Immaculate conception, so was Mary.
- Jesus is the intercessor between God and man. Mary is also sought as an intercessor between God and man.
- Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father as a king. Mary is seated at the right hand of Jesus as a Queen. Jesus rules heaven and earth as a King. Mary rules heaven and earth as a Queen.
- Jesus saves souls from sin and death. Mary saves souls from sin and death (Seen in the prayer, “Jesus, Mary, I Love You! Save Souls!).
- Jesus performed miracles, made predictions, and appeared in glory. Mary performs miracles, makes predictions, and appears in glory.
- It is not unreasonable to argue that as Jesus is God in the flesh, Mary is also God in the flesh. Jesus and Mary are both endowed with the same place and powers reserved for deity. Mary is no mere woman as Jesus is no mere man.
It would not surprise me to one day see female priests and a female Pope. There are Catholics who are not opposed to the idea.
Also, Catholicism is compromised by modernity. Though the laity may partially practice an orthodox faith, the leadership has entrusted its intellectual space to modern academia, which is atheist in its basic views of the world. And the Pope and those under him are promoting the social justice narrative, a narrative that is directly opposed to much of what the Church has historically stood for. This is found in their bible translations and homilies I have heard.
So much good is found the Roman Church. The Catholic Church is the church of Western Civilization. That alone warrants a measure of serious respect and consideration. Almost everything that Protestants and the West hold today can trace its roots back to the Catholic Church. The highly fragmented and weakened place of the Protestant Church in the West looks pitiful in the shadow of the Cathedrals of old.
And yet, the Church’s most prominent feature is its most egregious problem. The line between worshiping Mary and merely venerating her is razor thin and to invoke the name of Mary in a Catholic way gives serious concern to the conscience. Modernity has infected the Church, like many mainline Protestant churches, further tarnishing Rome’s shiny appeal.