Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Some quick thoughts I wanted to write down while they were still fresh in my mind (even if, due to the haste of writing it down, it is not precisely in the form I would put it were I taking my time...It is a little too blunt, for instance, precisely because I was a little irritated at the time of writing it due to an example of outright anti-Catholicism I saw, so...if it seems to have an angry tone, that is why. Please forgive me for the tone).

One of the funny things I think of is how Catholicism is so often accused by anti-Catholic Protestants of being a "man-centered" religion because of the place it gives to the office of the papacy and the episcopacy, and so forth. It is, indeed, hilarious to me precisely because this is one of the areas  which makes it more clear than anything that the Catholic Church is focused on Christ above all, and that, if anything, it is precisely those who throw around such accusations that are "man-centered" in their views, and not orthodox Catholics.

After all, it is clear, of course, that there are positions of authority in the church, as we can see from the clear teaching of the New Testament. Indeed, that is simply a matter of necessity to have the unity that Christ wills for his Church. If you reject that, you are more or less rejecting Scripture. And so it would be difficult to base a charge of being "man-centered" merely on the fact that you find such in the Catholic Church.

Moreover, even when it comes to the more disputed topic of the infallibility of the Church (which is woefully misunderstood by many non-Catholics, I may add), that is itself only held to be applicable under certain circumstances. We believe that Christ promised it to the Church, not because of the intrinsic trustworthiness of human leaders, but for the precisely contrary reasons, because humans are very much fallible, and if the Gospel is to be preached through all the centuries, then the Holy Spirit has to protect the Church lest it manage to drop the ball. Otherwise, as Catholic writer Mark Shea has put it somewhere, the Church would have lost the gospel half an hour after Pentecost. In other words, our faith is in Christ that He will keep his promise to send the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all truth, *precisely* because of the fallibility of men. You might disagree with it for other reasons, but not for the idea that it shows how Catholicism is "man-centered". Even if you believe it is in error to believe such, what it believes has nothing to do with glorifying man, but rather the opposite, since it takes for granted that man is of himself prone to teach error.

Which, finally, leads to a curious circumstance. In many Protestant churches, especially those who pride themselves on not being "man-centered" like "Catholics are".....if some scandal erupts concerning the pastor or so forth, or even if just the preacher starts to be unpopular with a part of the congregation for whatever reason, it can lead to church splits, with many leaving and, (from a perfectly consistent point of view of such churches), it would be acceptable. Now *that* is man-centered.

Contrast this to, say, Dante, for instance, who was a devout Catholic, loyal to the Church, and yet could in his Divine Comedy portray popes in Hell. He certainly was under no such illusions. There is such a thing as respecting the office even when it is difficult to respect the man. Indeed, there have been scandalous Popes who, though certainly not proving anything against the infallibility of the Church (which is not to be confused with the impeccability of its leaders) have certainly in their personal lives lived quite contrary to the teachings of the Gospel. If, indeed, Catholicism was "man-centered", that would have been enough to have destroyed the Church. But as a Catholic I do not base my faith on Peter himself, who will deny his Lord three times, or who will separate himself from Gentiles for fear of giving offense. Peter is a man with all the temptations and consequent failures that such constitutes. I base my faith on Christ, who promises to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen Peter so as not to teach error under certain circumstances as the Head of the Church (and, in the case of Peter himself, even positively inspiring him to write inspired Scripture in his epistles). In those circumstances, I trust my Lord because of His promises. Because, being a man myself, I know far too much of Peter to give him complete trust under any circumstances otherwise.

It would only be if I left the Church on account of the errors of Peter when he does not have the promise of the protection of the Holy Spirit from teaching error, or because of his own personal sins, then, and only then, would it be accurate to accuse me of being "man-centered." Because then I would be failing to follow and trust Christ because of Peter.