In my 32 years of life, most of the serious doubts about my faith have arisen primarily from confusion about the Church’s teachings and from a immaturity regarding spiritual matters. The present crisis affecting the Church is something different. I have true hope in salvation, and I feel the grace of God working in my life attracting me to greater holiness. Even still, recent developments–the abuses and pervasive coverup program recently unveiled to the public, the obscene politicking including the calls from clergy for the Pope to resign, and the rank partisanship–have assaulted my spirit with their dissonance with what I believe the Catholic faith to be about.

There’s no way to escape it. One cannot merely put one’s head in the sand.  The potential fallout almost certainly includes a restructuring of the current hierarchical structure of the Church, which has the appearance of being both central to its identity and contrary to its mission of evangelization. If one’s faith is dependent upon mere accoutrements to the Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, then one may find oneself in deep despair as these changes rock the Church from the inside-out.

In order to avoid despair, I am continuing to discern between those aspects of my faith that are essential, those that are accidental, and those that run counter to Truth and Love. It’s an ongoing process that at times is too difficult for me to bear and has been the reason for one or two social media sabbaticals during the past year.  It’s also revealed why I have such trouble empathizing with the experiences of some converts: one of the foundations of my faith, trust in my Church, is utterly sacrosanct. I confirm this trust every time I pray the Creed, but this trust is the very thing which these developments have called into question. I believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, but what does this mean?  

In my discernment, I have learned to reject any attitude or belief which leads me to doubt the mystical reality of the Church today. First, we know from Scripture that Jesus himself has promised the Holy Spirit to guide us and to remind us of his teachings. Through Tradition, we come to believe in what was handed in full to the apostles. I dare not tempt the Spirit or Christ himself by suggesting that there is no institution existing today which is the true Church established by Christ.  

This institutional Church is the means for our salvation, whose mission it is to convey the Sacraments of life-giving Baptism and Eucharist and to proclaim the Word of Christ. There is no salvation outside the Church because it is through the Church that we “hear” and have faith. (Romans 10:17) This is no mere metaphor.

One of the most foundational statements made by Vatican II can be found in Lumen Gentium. In that document, the Church confirms this “complex reality” of our institutional Church, which is at the same time body and spirit, human and divine.  

Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.

I had these thoughts in my mind as I went to Mass this past Sunday, August 26th. Ephesians 5 was the second reading and I was particularly drawn to this verse: “For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Often Ephesians 5 can induce anxieties about a falsely entitled patriarchy, but this time, by the grace of God, I saw the Scripture in a different light. This “incarnational Church,” by which we are to understand the people that make up the Church, is actively nourished via those same members, lay and clergy alike, in the Sacraments and in their ministries.

In my mind, there was no clearer argument against the temptation to quit the Church or stop going to Mass. Despite our sins and our failings, God does not hate the Church but continues to love it and nourish it, particularly in the Eucharist. The Church’s sins, no matter how great, will not prevent Jesus from continuing his work to unite all people to himself in love and truth. Therefore, we must continue to cling to Christ in the Church, corrupt clergy and all, if we want to work for the purification of the Church.

Also in my discernment, I have learned to reject any attitude or belief which leads me to distrust our bishops and the Pope when they speak authoritatively on matters of faith and morals. This is perhaps a harder teaching to accept. When I listen to my bishops and the Pope and assent to their teachings, it is on the basis of a certain trust. But how can I trust a bishop or a Pope that has proven himself to be of personally poor character and has made grave mistakes in his ministry?

First of all, it must be noted, that our Scriptures were written by sinful men, canonized by sinful men, and preached by sinful men and women. Our apostolic succession, the basis of Tradition and the Magisterium, is instantiated anew in generation after generation of sinful men.  In fact, in one sense, my entire faith can be owed to the actions of other sinful men and women. Not to discourage anyone, but if our faith depended upon only the work of other sinful men and women, we would be lost. If that were the case, no teaching, no word, no action, could be deemed truly redemptive, the blind leading the blind.

To me, it is more encouraging to know that our God is a loving God, who has not abandoned us to sin but in fact sent his only Son to die for us. As a Catholic, I would find it horribly incongruent with this same God to simply let us figure it out for ourselves after his ascension. In some way, we must believe that God is working in the Church, and he does so precisely by his Spirit through the work of sinful men and women.  He does so in the preachings of his bishops, who receive from their predecessors the fullness of Christ’s teaching.

The point is stronger when said in the negative: God will not allow the Church to be misled away from the truth of the faith by those who represent him. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul points to this dynamic. Paul warns us that we must avoid the partisanship that can tear the Church apart but also honor the contributions, however small or great, of respective members of the Church as they build on the foundation laid by Christ.  “Let no one boast in men,” Paul says. And perhaps no better words have been spoken on this current crisis. (But I’ll say a few more, anyway.)

I believe that the bishops and the Pope, however personally sinful, receive true help through the Spirit to speak authoritatively on faith and morals. At the same time, the Church also teaches that, through Baptism and Confirmation, the faithful receive the gifts of wisdom and understanding (among other gifts), which empower them to discern the truth themselves and cling to it. As Francis himself says, the Church ought to form consciences and not “replace them.”

The dynamic between clergy and laypeople has perhaps been understated in years past, but the present crisis, I believe, is opening up a new awareness, in harmony with the Church’s teachings, of how much laypeople can contribute to the Church’s work. In humility, we must accept that the truth of the maxim that “God will not allow his Church to be led into error” is often predicated on the contributions of lay faithful. While the bishops in synod will always have the final task of determining what is true and what is not, the Church does not limit discernment of truth to bishops.

Furthermore, Francis has indicated recently to the extent to which laypeople should have an increasing role in the management of the Church, even in the Vatican. Today, this takes on the character of an urgent call. The temptation to clericalism has a clear connection to the present abuses, which the greater involvement of lay faithful can most directly mitigate against. As any and all corrupt structures are revealed and uprooted in the Church, any proposed solution or replacement must not include merely more of the same clericalist dynamics.

When all is revealed in the very near future, as is my hope, be it through intense journalistic inquiry or personal revelation, we may find that our beloved bishops and perhaps even the Pope have been guilty of various sins, including those relating to sexual abuse and the abuse of power. What I hope I have provided here is some encouragement that, even when the Church is in chaos and at least some of its leaders are shown to be paragons of sinfulness, the Spirit is still working towards unity, preserving it always in love and truth.  

This is not an easy teaching, but in the end our belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” has little to do with the work of men and women who have divided the Church, sinned gravely against the Church, excluded and discriminated against members of the Church, and denied the teachings of the Church. Our confession is based rather, instead, upon the work of God.  We confess that the Church of Christ we are a part of, subsisting in the institutional Catholic Church, can be made more holy only by the increasing cooperation of lay and clergy with the God’s grace, and that it will be made perfect at the end of time.

Daniel Amiri is a Catholic layman, finance professional, and armchair theologian. A graduate of theology and classics from the University of Notre Dame, his studies coincided with the papacy of Benedict XVI whose vision, particularly the framework of “encounter” with Christ Jesus, has heavily influenced his thoughts.  He is a husband and a father to three beautiful children. He serves on parish council and also enjoys playing soccer and coaching his daughter’s soccer team.

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  1. jong says:

    The Pope is human who also have to struggles with our fallen nature, but JESUS fully understood our nature that’s why before He appointed Peter to be His Vicar, Jesus assured first Peter of His powerful protection.Peter and His Succesor’s understood this to the letter.That’s why the zeal of the Apostles never waiver even thru death and martyrdom they all embraced it.
    Now, satan ploy is to make us believe that a Pope is subject to human error and the possibility of spreading error’s in faith & morals is also a possibility to weaken His leadership. A weak church cannot fight satan, so for 2000 years satan has been attacking the Pope but he cannot do it.
    So in 1884, Satan ask for more power to destroy the church.and God mysteriously granted it.
    this is where we are now. the church is heading towards the same path of Jesus for it to emerge gloriously, there’s no other path for glory only thru the CROSS.
    we may not like what’s happening in the clergy right now,but akita and fatima.la salette had already reveals this scenario.
    Pope francis is one courageous pope to battle this growing enemies arm with more power coming from divine providence.but ofcourse Pope Francis knew what to do in this hour of need, the church must all turn to Mary.and so Pope Francis declares Mama Mary Mother of the Church rest assured that we are all now in the blue mantle of Her protection.
    lets just put our trust in Pope Francis leadership and stay in the ark.
    the battle is already concluded anyway.
    in the end my immaculate heart will triumph.
    Godblesss

  2. Peter Aiello says:

    The focal point of Christianity is Christ Himself and His Spirit. The Church is supposed to promote that. When the Church directs the attention of the faithful towards the human elements in the Church, it directs them away from the Source of grace where peace and strength reside.

    • Daniel Amiri Daniel Amiri says:

      Your first two sentences are right. I’m not sure what you mean exactly by your last sentence. The Church is made up of human elements and the purpose of the Church is to bring humanity into communion with God. The “human elements” certainly deserve our attention.

      • Peter Aiello says:

        There is virtually nothing said about consecration or surrender directly to Christ. This is what Scripture emphasizes. In the absence of that, attention is directed towards the mediation of priests and Mary in order to receive grace from God. I believe that this diminishes the impact that direct interaction with Christ could have in our lives, especially in regards to the peace and strength that is required to deal with lust, which are fruits of the Spirit.

        • Christopher Lake says:

          Peter,

          For almost 2,ooo years, the Catholic Church has had much to say about “consecration or surrender directly to Christ.” First of all, every single word that Christ Himself says on consecration or surrender to Him is lovingly understood by us to be part of the Catholic faith, because Catholics hold that Christ Himself founded the Catholic Church, with Peter as the first Pope, and a line of apostolic succession that continues to this day. Every word that St. Paul writes on consecration or surrender to Christ is part of the Catholic faith. This same principle can be applied to the whole of the New Testament.

          Throughout the entirety of the history of the Catholic Church, even in the times of deepest corruption and scandal (including our own time now), the consistent Catholic teaching has been that we who claim to be Christians should surrender ourselves to Him. This prayer from St. Ignatius of Loyola captures the heart of the Church’s historic teaching on giving oneself completely to Our Lord:

          Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
          My memory, my understanding
          And my entire will,
          All I have and call my own.

          You have given all to me.
          To you, Lord, I return it.

          Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
          Give me only your love and your grace.
          That is enough for me.

          Amen.

          • Peter Aiello says:

            But how much of it is part of present Catholic culture? With all of my Catholic upbringing and schooling, I had never heard of it. I learned of it from Scripture, on my own, when I was about 30 years old, and found it to be a solution for my own personal lust issues.
            Maybe the Church should revisit it in these troubled times. It’s been there all along.

  3. Christopher Lake says:

    Peter,

    You asked me, how much is the call to surrender to Christ part of present Catholic culture? Obviously, I can’t speak for Catholic culture in every area across the world, but from what I have experienced, since I returned to Catholic Christianity eight years ago (after several years as an evangelical Protestant Christian), I have heard the importance of surrender to Christ in homilies at my parish and other ones. Many of my Catholic friends and I regularly talk about our lives in terms of surrender to Christ. Anytime that I read the New Testament, I am reminded of, and encouraged in, that increasing surrender (given that it’s not simply a one-time act). Either directly or indirectly, most of the Catholic books that I and my friends read are about surrender to Christ. It’s so much a part of the present Catholic culture that I personally experience that it would be difficult to imagine that culture in other terms.

    It honestly, deeply, saddens me that in your Catholic upbringing, you didn’t hear the call to surrender Christ. I take you at your word about that, and it’s a tragedy. Again, speaking for myself, and I sense that you and I might well see this issue differently, but for myself, distinctively “Catholic”practices, such as going to priests to confess my sins, are *essential parts* of surrendering to Christ. This brings us back to Scripture. In John 20:19-23, Jesus sends His apostles out for ministry, explicitly giving them the authority, in *His Divine name*, to forgive and retain sins heard in confession. I don’t go to my priest for confession out of some misguided sense that I somehow *can’t or shouldn’t* confess directly to God. Rather, I go to confession, because that is simply part of surrendering to Christ, given His explicit words to His apostles in John 20:19-23. If I *truly want* to surrender to Christ, then I have to remember that the apostolic ministry of forgiving and retaining sins in confession was given by Him to the apostles and their successors, from the earliest years of Christianity up to the present day in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

    • Peter Aiello says:

      I suspect that we view the word “surrender” differently. For me, it is a resting of my mind directly on the Lord so that I can have His rest within me. It doesn’t require physical or mental imagery of any kind. I learned of it from Scripture. I was never taught it in my Catholic school upbringing. I don’t hear it taught, even today.
      At least the Church compiled the books of the Bible in the fourth century; and we can now read them for ourselves. I am thankful for that. There is where I found the instruction for my present spirituality. I grew up with developed doctrine, and I ended up being agnostic by the time I was twenty years old.
      Because the word “surrender” is not used in the Bible, we need to know what it means in our relationship with God. The Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing in order to get the peace that passes all understanding, and to cast all of our care on the Lord (see Philippians 4:6-7 and 1Peter 5:5-7). These verses explain the kind of surrender that brings peace and strength, and maintains them. I took these verses literally and I haven’t been the same since I did what they said.

      • Christopher Lake says:

        Hi again, Peter,

        Please be sure to correct me if I am completely off here, but in light of your most recent reply to me, I am now understanding you as referring to “consecration or surrender to Christ” solely, or at least, primarily, in terms of complete reliance on God for the peace that He alone can give to us. Is this an accurate summation of what you are saying here?

        If that is what you mean, then the Catholic Church certainly believes and teaches that from God, and in God, and God alone, via the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, we find our peace. Writing in the 5th century A.D., from his Catholic spiritual masterpiece, “The Confessions,” St. Augustine says of God, “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”

        The Catholic Church has taught about this peace that we can have from God, and in God alone, from the earliest centuries of Christianity. From everything that I have heard and read in the Catholic culture that I’ve personally experienced in the eight years since I returned to the Church, that precious teaching has never changed. I am saddened, and honestly, baffled, that you did not hear that teaching in your Catholic upbringing, but again, I take you at your word on that, and it’s a genuine tragedy. It sounds as if you were not given a very important part of your Catholic heritage from an early age.

        The beautiful, precious fact that we can have peace which comes from God, in God, alone, is a crucial teaching of Catholicism. This is not to take away from the reality of daily battle with sin, and the truth of the need for spiritual warfare, but even in the midst of those realities, for those who love Him, Christ brings us a peace that nothing in the world can bring. His peace can still abide within us at times of severe stress, turmoil, and personal trial, as St. John of the Cross writes of in “Dark Night of the Soul” and other works.

        Everything that both St. Augustine, in the 4th century, and St. John of the Cross, in the 16th century, wrote about getting our peace from God, and in God, is firmly rooted in what you found in Sacred Scripture at 30 years old. I am very, very sorry that you were not *clearly taught* this basic truth of Catholic Christianity from an early age. Every Catholic child, and young person, and adult, should be taught that truth and should personally claim it and enjoy its fruits.

        • Peter Aiello says:

          The emphases in today’s Catholicism on Mary and the Eucharist are major theological issues. I believe that consecration and surrender to Mary in order to receive Christ is a barrier to receiving Him and His peace. Many Catholics practice this. In Scripture, you surrender directly to Christ because we have to receive His Spirit in order to have the fruit of the Spirit peace (Galatians 5:22-23). The sacraments associated with receiving the Spirit of Christ are Baptism and Confirmation.
          If Mary was able to bring us Christ, as Louis de Montfort says, the spirit of Mary would have to be available for us, which he says is available for us. I see no basis for his teachings.
          The later spiritualities of Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and others, appear to have needless steps and devotional practices. Biblical surrender is merely being anxious for nothing in order to get the peace that passes all understanding, and casting all of our care on the Lord (see Philippians 4:6-7 and 1Peter 5:5-7). This is the spirituality that I found at 30 in Scripture which has had a lasting impact on my life. It still delivers what it promises after 2000 years. This is done prior to the Eucharist; therefore, it is not a Eucharist based spirituality which is promoted in the Church.
          In the Catholicism that I grew up with, there was no teaching of surrendering directly to Christ even though the teaching exists in Scripture and in some later writings. If this was promoted in the Church today, I believe that chastity would be facilitated, and the vows of celibacy among the clergy would be easier to live up to because another fruit of the Spirit is temperance or self-control, which has been essential for me in dealing with my personal lust issues.

          • Christopher Lake says:

            Hi again, Peter,

            You seem to view Marian consecration/devotion, and the Eucharist, as hindrances to surrender to Christ. Jesus teaches about the Eucharist in John, chapter 6, and many of His followers leave over it. If a person wants to be truly surrendered to Christ, shouldn’t that person accept *all* Christ’s teachings, including the Biblical one about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, as given by the Church, that, historically speaking, He founded?

            Canonized Catholic Saints, all of whom experienced deep peace through surrender to Christ, had a deep love for the Eucharist (who is Jesus Himself!) and for Mary. They did not think, at all, that these matters somehow hindered their surrender to Christ. Rather, many of them were *greatly helped* towards deeper surrender to Christ, precisely through their distinctively Catholic faith. Were they all misled in that? Did they all misinterpret the Scriptural teachings about Christ and how to find peace in Him?

            The “emphasis in today’s Catholicism on Mary and the Eucharist” that you write about, in your above reply to me, is actually, historically speaking, an emphasis that has been in Catholicism since before the New Testament was officially formed into a canon by the Catholic Church. I was shocked, when I was a Protestant, to find out that what I had thought were “later Catholic corruptions” (such as the teachings on the Eucharist and devotion to Mary) had actually been a part of the faith of the early Christians, but eventually, I had to accept that this was the fact, and I had to at least consider that, perhaps, they might have been right on these matters, and I might be wrong as an anti-Catholic Protestant.

            If you trust that the Holy Spirit guided the Church to the right decisions, in terms of which books to leave in and leave out of the New Testament canon, then why would you *not* trust the Church on Mary and the Eucharist, which the Church was teaching about before the formation of the NT canon? Is your lack of trust on these issues simply because the Catholic teachings on Mary and the Eucharist conflict with your personal interpretations of Scripture? When I left the Catholic Church, many years ago, falling into nihilism, and then, coming back to Christ as a committed evangelical Protestant, I was absolutely convinced that the Catholic Church was “Biblically wrong” on the Eucharist, Mary, and a whole host of other matters. For a number of years, based on my own interpretations of the Bible, I was sure that the Catholic Church was so far from basic, Christian, Biblical teachings that Catholics could not even be legitimately called Christians.

            God took me through a very painfully humbling process to eventually bring me to the conclusion that it was the *Catholic Church* which was actually interpreting the Bible rightly, and that I had been interpreting it through lenses that the early Christians simply would not have recognized. To say the least, this was not easy for me to admit or accept. Again, it was very painful. Being humbled is not easy.

            It took much more Biblical research, and reading about the devotional lives of the early Christians, including about their church services, which involved the Eucharist, and reading of the early Church Fathers and *their* interpretations of Scripture, for me to be radically humbled about my doctrinal and practical judgments of Catholicism. I had been standing outside of the Church, and judging her teachings, based on my misinterpretations of the *very Bible* which the Church helped to canonize!

          • Peter Aiello says:

            My view of consecration or surrender to the Godhead is casting all of my cares on the Lord and being anxious for nothing (see 1Peter 5:5-7 and Philippians 4:6-7). It is simple and to the point.
            Catholic theology concerning the Eucharist and Mary were the furthest thing from my mind when I did it. I did it when I was walking down a street, and it wasn’t in any church. Apparently, it didn’t matter to God because I haven’t been the same since.
            I did not surrender to Mary as Louis de Montfort recommends as the preferred way to receive Christ. I had never heard of him up to that point. I found Christ Scripturally. I can’t speak for any other later way that canonized saints did it.
            Mary is referred to only once in all of the epistles when Paul speaks of Jesus as being born of a woman. The New Testament epistles do not emphasize Mary and the Eucharist as does the present Catholic Church.
            There was further development of Marian and Eucharistic doctrine after the Bible was compiled in the fourth century.
            I found my connection with God Biblically. It didn’t happen within my early Catholic upbringing. There was no mention of surrender and consecration directly to God at that time.
            I am thankful that the Church compiled the Bible in the fourth century because I was able to find a Christianity therein that made sense to me even though it was not preached when I was growing up.

          • Peter Aiello says:

            When we rest in Christ, He imparts His rest to us. The remainder is inconsequential.

  4. Christopher Lake says:

    Hi, Peter,

    I’m very glad that you have encountered Christ in a life-changing way through the Scriptures. I have too. That is always a reason for celebration, and I am happy for you. With that said, a Christian spirituality that is, at least partially, disconnected from the *actual, documented* faith and practice of the early Christians, is a spirituality that is, at least partially, a matter of one’s own private interpretation, and private interpretation is simply not a Scriptural principle. The Bible itself counsels *against* private interpretation.

    When one interprets the New Testament outside of the Church in which it was canonized, it’s understandable that one can miss the Eucharistic and Marian dimensions of Scripture. Because of your “Sola Scriptura” way of interpreting the Bible, you are missing things in Scripture that were understood by the early Christians. I learned this the hard way, myself, as a Protestant, and it severely humbled me. A non-Eucharistic, non-Marian, Christian spirituality is seriously different from the historic Christian spirituality of the early believers. You may well be skeptical of such claims, but the faith and practice of the early Christians is *historically documented* in writings which *predate* the formation of the New Testament canon– and that faith and spirituality are explicitly Catholic. They do not espouse a “Jesus and me alone, for my personal peace” viewpoint. Some of the evidence of the Catholicity of the early Christians can be found here: http://www.churchfathers.org/

    • Peter Aiello says:

      The early Christian writings predate the formation of the NT canon, but they do not predate the writings of the NT themselves, which are also “the *actual, documented* faith and practice of the early Christians”. When we read the subsequent writings for ourselves, we also privately interpret them. How can you avoid having an opinion about what you are reading?
      The NT writings contain the earliest Christian spirituality; and they emphasize the Holy Spirit and its fruit. This is the spirituality that had the greatest impact on my life; and the Bible was the only writing that presented it to me in its purest form. This spirituality gave me the peace and strength to deal with my lust issues. The Church should make more use of it. The Church canonized its writings, which regulate everything in Christianity. I did not find my Christian spirituality in a book that was not canonized by the Church. Later Catholic spiritualities are found in books that are not canonized as Scripture is. This is why they are different.
      The issue of privately interpreting Scripture is interesting. The meaning of 2Peter 1:20-21 changes depending upon the translator. The old Catholic Douay Bible renders it: “Understanding this first, that no prophecy of scripture is made by private interpretation. For prophecy came not by the will of man at any time: but the holy men of God spoke, inspired by the Holy Ghost”. The old King James says: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost”. The Catholic version of the Living Bible says: “For no prophecy recorded in Scripture was ever thought up by the prophet himself. It was the Holy Spirit within these godly men who gave them true messages from God”. It looks like the passage has nothing to do with not be being able to interpret Scripture for ourselves. It applies to the writers; not us. The word “interpretation” can also be translated “unloosing”. The Living Bible and the old Catholic Bible translations make more sense because of verse 21. Anyway, how can you read something without interpreting it?

      • Christopher Lake says:

        Hi again, Peter,

        First of all, I want to thank you for continuing in this discussion with me. I appreciate that you are taking the time to write to me, respectfully but firmly, om these very important matters. I also appreciate that you are challenging me to think, again, through issues and questions, regarding the Catholic Christian faith that I willingly chose to (re)embrace after years of being a “Sola Scriptura” Protestant Christian. Sadly, it’s not always common to find genuinely respectful dialogue among fellow Christian believers online, and I thank you for being respectful to me, and I hope and pray that I am returning the respect in how I write to you here. That is how it should be among Christians, including in serious dialogues such as ours.

        You are completely correct that neither I, nor anyone else, can read anything without interpreting it. Of course, when I read the Bible, I am interpreting it. When I read a writing of an early Church Father, I am interpreting it. That cannot logically be avoided. Reading intrinsically involves interpretation.

        When I read the Bible *now* though, as a Catholic, I am not reading it in the light of my own personal, private understanding, on my own, as disconnected from the Church. That is certainly how I read the Bible as a Protestant, in large part, but as a Catholic, I freely, happily admit to reading the Bible in the interpretive light of the same Church which historically brought the formailized New Testament canon to us, via the Holy Spirit, through the authoritative ruling of a Church council.

        This way of reading and interpreting the Bible is *very seriously different* from reading the Bible, as disconnected from the Church, and then, coming to my own personal, private interpretation of Scripture. That is a practice that, at least from the time of Martin Luther, if not earlier, has led to often seriously conflicting interpretations of the Bible– and then, from there, tit has led to thousands of different denominations, disagreeing with each other on how to rightly interpret the Bible. As a fellow believer in Christ, I want to ask you, respectfully but seriously– how is that kind of interpretive conflict and fragmentation, *over how to rightly understand the Bible*, helping to fulfill Jesus’s high priestly prayer in Scripture, that those who have faith in Him would be one, *as* He and the Father are one, so that the watching world would *see and know* that He was sent to us by the Father?

        I hope that it’s okay if I ask a few more respectful, serious, questions, regarding the Bible and the Catholic Church. Why do you trust that the Church was rightly guided by, and that she accurately listened to, the Holy Spirit, when it came to canonizing the Scriptures at a Church council? What is the basis of your trust on that issue?

        This is the same Church that was teaching about the Eucharist and Mary hundreds of years *before* the ruling on the Biblical canon at a council. According to your own testimony here, you clearly, openly say that you *don’t* trust that the Church was rightly hearing the Holy Spirit, when it comes to the Eucharist and Marian doctrines. To be extremely clear, on my end, I didn’t trust the Church on these matters, either, at all, when I was a Protestant!! 🙂

        However, when I began to really do serious research into Church history as a Protestant, and I learned how the Holy Spirit worked through the Catholic Church for the formalizing of the Biblical canon, I had to ask myself– why, logically, do I trust that the Church “got the Scriptural canon right,” but I don’t trust that she “got” the Eucharist and Mary right, when she was teaching on *those issues* long before she authoritatively ruled on the canon at a fourth-century council?

        2 Thessalonians 2:15 exhorts believers in this way– “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold to the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle.” If the epistle in this verse refers to written Scripture (and I can’t imagine that it would refer to *anything other* than written Scripture)– then, what, to your understanding, are the “traditions” that we are being exhorted to hold to which have been taught, “by word” from the apostles, but not apparently, from this verse itself, as always explicitly stated in the epistles themselves? Of course, the apostles would never exhort us to follow any traditions which *contradict* what is taught in Scripture. Of course, we should always follow what Scripture teaches. The Catholic Church has strongly affirms this principle in many, many Papal writings over the centuries. Regarding 2 Thessalonians 2:15 though, how are believers to know and hold fast to the “traditions” that have been taught “by word” from the apostles but not always, apparently, included explicitly in the written epistles?

        For believing, practicing Catholics,, one of the sacredly entrusted jobs of the Pope and Magisterium is to rightly interpret both written Scripture, *and* orally handed-down Christian tradition, in the vein of 2 Thessalonians 2:15. For us, the canon of the Scriptures can be trusted to be accurate, because the same Church which *Christ Himself* founded was also entrusted by Him, through the Holy Spirit, with the *very canonization* of those Scriptures.

        In the same light, if the Church can be trusted to have *gotten the canon right,” via the Spirit, then the Church can be trusted to authoritatively interpret *all* of the apostoiic traditions which have been handed down to us, both in the written Scriptural “epistles” and “by word.”

        This is why I trust the Church, logically speaking, when it comes to her historical handing down of both Sacred Scripture *and* Sacred Tradition. If I can trust the Holy Spirit to rightly work though the Church on the Biblical canon, the I can trust the Church on the *authoritative interpretation* of both the apostolic traditions that are explicitly taught to us in the written Bible, and those that have been handed down “by word,” as expressed in 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

        • Peter Aiello says:

          I’m not so sure that the oneness of Christianity is going to happen before Christ returns. Even the NT church had its divisions.
          As far as trusting the choice of books for the Bible, the OT was there before Christ was born. The NT has the earliest Christian writings, written by those who were either original apostles or those who were close to the original events. Paul was an apostle by a Holy Spirit gift rather than by appointment.
          The books of the Bible complement each other. I found my spirituality from them, after I put aside my Catholic conditioning, to see what they had to say about getting inner peace. I was not taught this in my Catholic upbringing.
          I think that it is OK to read the Bible to see what is in it. If I hadn’t done this, I would never have found what I did find in it. I rely heavily on it, and I don’t restrict myself to using Catholic lenses when I read it because of this.
          I am thankful that the Church had the foresight to compile it in the fourth century. It is now being used in ways that were not anticipated before the printing press; but the cat is out of the bag.
          There is so much dubious developed doctrine in the Church today, that I think it is important to “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1Thessalonians 5:21). When I see teachings in the Church or by the pope that appear to contradict Scripture, I can’t ignore my personal conscience. I am bound by it. This is what I juggle with.
          Also, what is supposed to be infallible is not that clear. I was taught that “ex cathedra” pronouncements were supposed to be infallible; but now I notice that there is a lot more than that; and I don’t see where the opinions about what is infallible are unanimous.
          Here is an interesting quote from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium 12. It says: “The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, (111) [cf. 1 Jn 2:20, 27] cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples’ supernatural discernment in matters of faith when “from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful” (8*) [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17] they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth.” How do you process that one?
          We can all contribute to tradition. Vatican II’s Dei Verbum 8 which says: “This tradition which comes from the Apostles develop in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. (5) For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth”. We all have skin in the game.

          • Christopher Lake says:

            Hi again, Peter,

            Thank you for your reply. When you say that “there is so much dubious doctrine in the Church today,” by what standard do you judge that developed doctrine to be dubious? Is the standard not, simply, your personal interpretation of Scripture? If the standard is something else, what is it?

            Certainly it is great to read Scripture to see what it is in it. The Catholic Church exhorts to read and study Scripture. The Church has also exhorted us, historically, to cast all our cares on Christ, as Scripture teaches, though sadly, you seemingly did not hear that message when you were Catholic. Again, I say, that is a tragedy.

            I should also say, though, that you would have heard about finding peace through Christ as a Catholic, if you had read Scripture in those years, as the Popes have long exhorted us to do, and you also would have heard about finding peace through Christ, as a Catholic, if you had read the writings of the Popes, as they authoritatively teach and explain Scripture in their writings to the Church.

            It’s crucial that we read Scripture for ourselves to see what is in it. I completely affirm that truth as a Catholic. The serious problem arises, though, when your (or my) personal interpretation of Scripture, on the Eucharist, Mary, etc., brings you (or me) into conflict with the living, visible, apostolic teaching authority which Christ breathed on and ordained to preach the Gospel, and gave authority to bind and loose, and to forgive and retain the sins of others in John 20:19-23. That apostolic teaching authority still exists today in the Catholic Church, and I don’t see in Scripture where Christ gives believers permission to leave that visible teaching authority if or when their personal interpretation of Scripture differs from the that of the Church.

            Please know that I respect and love you, as my brother in Christ, but in that same spirit and out of that love, I have to ask, respectfully, why is your interpretation of Scripture more authoritative than that of the Church can be historically traced back to Christ and His apostles?

            You may reply that we should judge doctrines by their fruits, and that the fruits of supposedly “unBiblical” Catholic doctrines are (to your understanding) bad fruits. I know that you have mentioned, many times, that Catholic teaching on the Eucharist and Mary did not lead to you having peace through Christ. However, Catholic Saints through the centuries have very different testimonies than what you experienced in the Church. What you experienced was bad, yes, in that you were apparently not encouraged to cast your cares on Christ, as Scripture teaches. What that means, though, is that you were not encouraged to do *what the Church teaches*, because she teaches us to read to read Scripture and obey it (which means casting all of our cares on Christ!)– but the Church *does not* teach us that Christ left us without a visible, authoritative, teaching authority, and that, therefore, we simply should and must take our personal interpretation of the Bible to be authoritative.

            Everyone from Martin Luther, to Joel Osteen, to T.D. Jakes, was/is sincerely convinced that their interpretations of Scripture are more accurate than those of the Catholic Church. As a Protestant, I used to strongly judge the Catholic Church to have “dubious developed doctrines” too, as you now do. What I never questioned (until I finally did!) was that I might actually just be wrong in some of my interpretations of the Bible– interpretations which *led me to* strongly udge those supposedly “unBiblical Catholic doctrines.”

            I also did not question, for many years, whether or not Sola Scriptura, itself, might not be a dubious developed doctrine– even though Scripture teaches *against* Sola Scriptura, and tells us that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the faith, and exhorts us to hold fast to *all* of the apostolic traditions, both those written down and those passed down orally. When I *did* my own Protestant principles though, it led me back to the Church– painfully, and in a humbling way, but I had to obey Christ, rather than the “traditions of men,” such as Sola Scriptura, so I did, finally, return to the Church which He founded. There is no greater peace tc be found than in resting in Christ, in the Church that He founded, which brought tus he very NT canon which Protestants read and, sadly, at times, misinterpret (as I did for years!), thinking that the Catholic Church’s teachings are “unBiblical.”

          • Peter Aiello says:

            Vatican II, in Dei Verbum 21 says: “Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture.”
            The Church has wisely limited itself to being regulated only by Sacred Scripture, Sola Scriptura, and nothing else. We, as members of the Church, are required to be regulated only by Sacred Scripture, Sola Scriptura, and nothing else.
            V2’s Dignitatis Humanae 2 says: “It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom.”
            V2’s Dignitatis Humanae 3 says: “Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it. On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.”

  5. Christopher Lake says:

    Sorry for the typos in my last reply to you, Peter! It seems that my proof-reading suffered a bit with so much typing! My apologies!

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