Just before Christmas, Benedictine University did a survey of former Catholics and lapsed Catholics to find out why they had stopped attending Mass and to ask what they could do to bring them back. I was already planning this series when I found out about the survey, but it made me think a lot more deeply about what I was writing. That, plus the ridiculously hectic holiday season, accounts for the delay since my last post. Dear readers, you have my apologies.
My motivation for telling this part of my story, and in this level of detail, is that I see history repeating itself in the Church. If you are Catholic, please be advised that what you are about to read in this series may offend you deeply. But please understand, as with everything that appears here at Truth Mission, the intent is not to offend but to illuminate.
There are as many perspectives on religion as there are people. This is mine; yours may be completely different. I welcome comments from all, but please try to be respectful, as I have tried to be.
In the Old Testament, the Jews were set apart as the holy people of God. Even as Jesus prepared the Kingdom of God to be opened to the Gentiles (i.e. anyone not a Jew), he still said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews.” (John 4:22 NASB)
Now when Jesus said “from the Jews,” he was referring to Himself, being from among the Jews. How ironic, then, was it for Him to be arrested and brought to trial by the Pharisees–the leaders of the Jews! You would think that the people charged with the keeping of the faith would recognize the Messiah when they saw Him!
But they didn’t, of course, because the “faith” that the Pharisees were keeping was not the one given to them by God. It was their own religion with their own rules and regulations that they created for their own benefit. Because Jesus didn’t fit their man-made model of what the Messiah should be, the Pharisees had Him executed, even though He was the real deal.
2,000 years later, the same thing is happening to Christianity.
Many centuries ago, the Catholic Church was charged with keeping the faith as handed to them by the apostles. Indeed, the Pope is considered as a direct successor to the Apostle Peter, who was charged by Jesus Himself to lead the emerging Church. As such, what makes a Catholic a Catholic is being identified with this direct line of succession.
The word Catholic means universal, or literally from the Greek, “according to the whole.” This term was first used around 400 AD to distinguish people who believed the whole doctrine about Jesus being fully divine and fully human from those who did not (these were called “heretics”).
But somewhere along the way, the doctrine became more important than the faith.
Following in the footsteps of the Pharisees, the Magisterium, or teaching authority, of the Catholic Church gradually created a new religion out of Christianity. As a result, just as the Pharisees did not recognize Jesus for who He was while He was alive on earth, so the Catholic leadership does not recognize who He is today.
(Why not? For one answer, come back for Part 2:The Word)