Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Not enough priests, but plenty of Popes

There's a famous line that says there are not enough vocations to the priesthood, but plenty of vocations to the papacy. So many Catholics in our modern day openly share their "disagreements" with the Catholic Church, as if they had some say in it. In this blog, I will address what the Catholic Church is, under what authority it operates, and the proper role of members within the Church.

Today, more than ever, people enjoy freedom and democracy in many parts of their lives. In the past, people were less free to make decisions about themselves, how they lived, their behaviors, rituals, and customs, and various other aspects of their lives. This changed dramatically as countries became more modern and the idea that everyone is equal evolved. Women's rights, freedom of slaves, and laws against discrimination all contributed to a society were individual rights were more highly regarded than ever before. This, although greatly beneficial, has led to certain opinions which are not correct.

One of the strongest advocates for the rights of humanity has been the Catholic Church. In fact, one could argue, the Catholic Church has had a greater role in protecting peoples' rights than any other organization on Earth. Read any encyclical, Vatican document, or other text from the Catholic Church, and you will see its unending campaign for human dignity and freedom. This freedom incorporates all freedoms, including employment, equality of men and women, freedom of education, freedom to live, and freedom of religion. I will focus on freedom of religion in this essay.

Many people our Christian culture have been so influenced by personal freedom, that they believe it belongs in every aspect of our lives, but this simply cannot be the case. If a law is made in a country, we are not "free" to make our own law concerning this. For example, if murder is a serious crime, we cannot say we think it shouldn't be serious, therefore it isn't. It is not our place to decide this. The same is true of the Catholic faith. The Universal Christian Church was entrusted to Peter by Jesus Christ who said that upon him, he would build his church. He gave Peter the keys to the gates of heaven, an ancient symbol meaning he gave Peter the right to rule on Earth. Jesus did not give this right to everyone to decide all rules for themselves. But an interesting thing to note is that the Catholic Church does not give the Pope the right to simply invent things.

The Pope's role within the Church is the head and final say within the Catholic Church, but his role is not to make up rules wherever he wants, and just disregard others. The Pope is held to the doctrines and dogmas of the Church just like anyone else. The priest remains celibate, as the discipline requires. The Pope goes to confession, he receives the sacraments, etc. The role of the Church is to seek and find the Truth, and then to share this Truth with others. Unfortunately, many think this "truth" is subjective and personal. However, these truths are objective, based on natural law, reason, and revelation by God. The magisterium of the Church is in charge of promulgating these truths. The magisterium is not the source of all truth, but its role is to enunciate it.

Everything the Church teaches on has its basis in Scripture and Tradition. A good way of looking at these is to think, oral and written sources, oral being tradition, and written being scripture. The teachings of Jesus can be implicitly found in all teachings of the Church. They are not based on desires of individuals, but on universal truths. In fact, Catholic means universal, because it is for everyone, not each individual. It is not called the Individual Church. We must submit our will to the teachings of Christ and the Church. It is very easy for people to think a want is actually a right. Perhaps something people want is not the best for them.

The Catholic Church is Christ's Church, not Bob's Church, or Joanne's Church. It is also not a democracy. It is not "your" church, it is everyone's church, it is humanity's church. The Catholic Church believes that two ideas which are opposed to each other cannot be both true. The Church makes definitive statements on issues, such as abortion is morally wrong, and homosexual marriage is not valid, legal, or even possible. If you say either of these things are good or possible, then you are in disagreement with the Catholic Church.

There is also an important difference between being opposed to a belief and finding it hard to believe. If you struggle with a belief or teaching, you can still consider yourself fully Catholic, and a devout one if you wish. However, if you make a position which is in opposition to a Catholic dogma or doctrine, you cannot consider yourself a Catholic. If a soldier did not agree with his superior and took a stand against him, that soldier could not continue to be a part of that group. If he did, he would simply cause conflict within the group. Sometimes if a member is outspoken in his or her opposition to the Church, he may be excommunicated. However, the Church only recognizes the excommunication. The actions of the individual make it so.

In conclusion, the Catholic Church has a moral stand on many issues, and its role is to reveal truth to the human race. It is not an individual organization, but an organization for all of humanity. Because many have been trained with a "have it your way" mentality, they think they can believe in or act however they want and still call themselves Catholic. But their views will not be expressed. Only because it is willing to stand up and declare its beliefs despite opposition, can the Church's teachings be viewed with respect. Many times throughout its history, including its first hundreds of years and to a large extent our own time, the Catholic Church has been attacked by many groups. It stood firm however, and because of this, shines as a moral beacon in a world of relative morality. The Church shines bright with the light of Christ, a light that cannot be extinguished, so that whoever earnestly seeks the Truth will find it, and be filled to overflowing.

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