Friday, October 8, 2010

To Protestants and other non-Catholics: All Catholics do not equal Church teaching

This is important to remember. The National Catholic Reporter is Catholic. Says so right in its title. So a Protestant might be forgiven for stumbling across its website, and saying 'wow, the Catholic Church is really liberal.' Well, the National Catholic Reporter is at least to the left. Others aren't. Some are really, really to the right. Some chafe over the whole Vatican II thing. Some embrace a strange brew of Catholic fundamentalism, a sort of Qumran Catholicism that says they and those in their circles are True Catholics (TM), and everyone else is outside the grace of the Church and can burn for their troubles. Others are anywhere in between these approaches. The fact is, the Catholic Church has official dogmas that say this is true and undeniable for the believer, and that is false. On top of that, it has official positions it stakes out on various issues. These may not be dogmas, but we are called to follow them just like Protestants are assumed to follow their denomination's teaching, or Americans are expected to follow the speed limit even if it's not in the Constitution. And of course, you have opinions and lots of wiggle room for interpreting some of the teachings of the Church - and that is where the Catholic blogs come from.

The point is, there is not one, big Church with the Pope telling everyone what to think about everything. It says certain things are non-negotiable, others are not dogmas, but the Church is teaching this and we are expected to listen, but often with enough room to discuss the finer details. So if you find yourself surfing the web to learn about Catholicism, go to the source. Go to the writings of the Church, the Papal encyclicals, the Catechism, things like that. Blogs and websites and Catholic ministries are fine and dandy and can help you get a jump start. But be careful not to confuse someone who really argues well or has a witty style with what the Church actually teaches. They may be right. But go to the source as well. That is where the Catholic Faith is. Just a little lesson from someone who had to learn it on his own journey into the Catholic Faith.

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