I received an email from an old friend yesterday on the cusp of the new year ushering in old arguments against Catholicism but done so in what I'm choosing to trust is in a spirit of honest inquiry.
This friend, now a pastor of a non-denominational church, and I go back a long way, working together for two different employers more than 20 years ago. We've kept in touch largely through social media over these many years and I consider him to be a person of integrity and a man who sincerely and genuinely loves the Lord.
He began his email with a simple question.
"I am disqualified to be a Catholic, correct?" and went on to outline numerous objections to Catholicism that he clearly believes bolsters the premise for his question. I wrote him back and asked if he would have a problem with my turning his questions, and my responses, into blog posts, hoping that not only he would come away at least knowing more about Catholicism but that, God willing, others who read our exchange might do the same.
So over the next few days and probably more like weeks, I'll be putting up Pastor Pete's (not his real name) objections to the Catholic faith and attempting to answer them as best I can with the following caveat.
I'm no theologian. I'm a revert who was away from the Catholic Church for nearly 40 years.
Despite the fact that I've slept at a Holiday Inn Express numerous times, I'm not going to pretend that I'm the end-all for every Catholic teaching. My hope instead is to find and use what I hope are clearly authoritative resources to answer the objections. And of course I welcome my small cadre of loyal readers (Catholic or otherwise) to weigh in with comments and add to the discussion.
What I want to do up front for Pastor Pete however in this post is set the tone by answering his opening question in a way I hope will not come across as condescending.
I think the word disqualified in the question has unintentionally negative connotations. It suggests that those who want to enter the Catholic Church must first become aware of and adhere to belief in every doctrine, teaching or dogma before becoming a faithful member and I believe that to be impractical to say the least. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is over 900 pages long and though we covered lots of ground in our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) class, we did not together read the entire Catechism. What we instead did was hit the highlights and more importantly, spent a lot of time learning and understanding the authority God passed to the Church.
If we're going to come down to a single question as to whether one should genuinely consider becoming Catholic or not, I say we boil it down to making an informed decision on whether or not we're willing to entertain the notion that the Church is more authoritative on all things having to do with Jesus Christ than we as individuals are.
I have made the personal decision, one based on study and based on faith, that she is. This has been admittedly difficult at times but I've come to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work in and through the Catholic Church.
If, as Pastor Pete suggests, we are disqualified to be Catholic, we are disqualified only by our unwillingness to see and recognize authority outside of ourselves.
With that I'll end this post but not before revealing that the next one in the series will deal with Pastor Pete's problems with the Assumption of Mary.
UPDATE: Hours after I published this post, I came across Pope Francis' homily delivered today at St. Peter's Basilica, a homily with words I think add some frosting if you will, some seasoning, to what I had to say earlier. Heck... who am I kidding... he's the Pope, and what he had to say is the meat, the full course, of what I was attempting to weakly say in part. I put up a separate post on it, not exactly part of my series here, more like an extension of this first post. Do check it out.
UPDATE II: The second post in the series has been published and can be found here.