Three questions I am often askedDuring this most Holy Season of the year when the thoughts of serious Christians everywhere begin to turn to the Birth of Our Savior and Lord, I thought it most prudent to address a few serious questions I sometimes get about this web log, usually in private messages, from sincere and serious people. The majority of these questions usually involve my faith.
The most common question I get is: “Do you believe that only Catholics are going to Heaven?”
Regular readers know what a devout Catholic that I am. I do not claim to be perfect, nor to I think myself “holier-than-thou.” I suspect I get this sort of question because when I speak of the Church, I speak of the Catholic Church alone, unless I specify that I am speaking of something or someone Protestant.
First of all, it isn’t my place to determine who goes to Heaven and who does not. I believe that power resides in God alone (although I believe that the Church acts as God‘s agent in the world). Secondly, it is rather silly for me to say that only Catholics will go to Heaven…That would be putting limits on God, and saying that God would penalize people because of things they may not have been taught or are not aware of.
A second question I have gotten in various forms but all meaning the same thing is: “Do you believe the Catholic Church is the ’one True Church’ or the only true Church?”
The answer to this question is a controversial but unapologetic “absolutely.” Just as I believe Jesus Christ is exactly who He claimed to be, I believe that the Catholic Church is what it claims to be: The Church He founded. I believe that the Church possesses without reserve the binding and loosing power described in Matthew 16:18-19, and that its bishops and priests, having been handed down the deposit of faith through the ages, are indeed the Successors of the Apostles. As we have seen in recent times, it certainly doesn’t make them perfect. Just as Jesus had Judas, we too sometimes have to deal with bad leadership in the Church. For every bad leader, though, there are ten good leaders. We aren’t called to selective obedience…even in blasting the Scribes and Pharisees, Jesus still admonishes the people to obey the religious authorities God has placed over them (Matthew 23-2:3). Christ did not establish a Northern Church or a Southern Church, a First Church or a Second Church, or 30,000 different churches, or community churches. He founded One Church, it is holy, Catholic, and apostolic.
Does that mean I think Protestants are bad? Of course not. I work with them, I associate with them, I believe many and most of them are good, solid, prayerful Christians. I happen to think the basis for Protestant thought is a flawed one…but after 500 years of very sad division it is hard to say “Protestants (as a generalization) are wrong.” Unlike their 16th Century forebears, they did not willingly break with the Church or lapse into schism, and they never knew what it was like to all be a part of one Church.
I also think that, from a political point of view, whatever our religious persuasion might be, it is important for Christians to unite as one against certain evils that plague our society. We must speak with one voice against aborticide, against same-sex “marriage,” against anti-Christian discrimination by the State, and against oppression of Christians by regimes around the world. In short, we must stand united in order to defeat the Left in the Culture War. It thrills me to death to have encountered over the years so many conservatives who trumpet from the rooftops their faith in Jesus Christ, from my good friends Aaron Harris and Adam Graham, to our GOP Chair Brian Hornback. I am thankful there are people involved in public life who are not afraid of the Holy Name.
The most common query I get from angry Catholics is: “How on earth can you be Catholic and a Republican?”
Well, this is 2005/06, and there are LOTS of Catholic Republicans out there, from our former National Chairman (and Ambassador to the Holy See) Jim Nicholson to Kansas Senator Sam Brownback to radio talk hosts G. Gordon Liddy and Sean Hannity, so that’s really a moot point. Why are these Catholics Republicans?
Normally this question comes from a concern that I am somehow ignoring the Church’s social justice teachings per Rarem Novarum. Let me assure concerned Catholic readers that I most certainly am not. The difference between myself and the Catholics who ask the above question is a difference in philosophy about how best to execute and apply those teachings.
Alas, Advent drawing near a close has caused me to wax philosophical. I do hope that it hasn’t driven too many readers away…keep the reading up, and I’ll keep up the posting.
Thanks to all of our loyal readers for staying with us through a roller-coaster of a year. Here’s praying for a great 2006.