16 February 2008
I received your letter and while I am dismayed you are so willing to believe family gossip, I take your letter in the spirit of concern and love that you surely had in mind when you wrote it.
It is true that I am no longer attending a Church of Christ. It is not, however, true that I am simply attending a Catholic Church – I am a Catholic. I was received into full communion with the Catholic church through the sacrament of confirmation during the Easter Vigil in 2007.
The decision to convert was not one I made either easily or quickly. I fought the decision for over ten years before I ultimately decided I needed to follow God’s call in my life. I have never believed fully in the doctrine I was taught in the Church of Christ but had been attending enough to keep the family happy. The family was happy, but I was absolutely miserable. I had been living a lie for years and could no longer continue to do so. My mental health had deteriorated so much that I had to go under a psychiatrist’s care in 2006.
[I have deleted a portion of my response because it reveals personal details about two other people and I do not feel free to divulge these details without the consent of the other two parties.]
Because we, as Catholics, believe that marriage is a sacrament, the church holds that remarriage after a civil divorce is a mortal sin. The Church does not allow for remarriage even in the case where one spouse is guilty of adultery. Because marriage is a sacrament, it’s mark on the souls of the husband and wife are indelible. The only way a civilly divorced Catholic can remarry with the Church’s blessing is if, after investigation, the tribunal can determine that the requisite elements required to make a valid marriage were missing from the time the marriage was entered into.
The purpose of the tribunal is to look at the circumstances into which the parties entered into the sacrament of marriage to see if the requisite intent and knowledge were present. If there weren’t the requisite intent and knowledge and desire to enter into the sacrament of marriage, the tribunal will issue a decree of nullity thus freeing one or both of the parties to remarry with the blessing of the church.
You claim the Catholic church has practices that are un-Biblical. I too believed this until I began to study what the church actually teaches instead of what I had been taught the Church teaches. Unfortunately the Church of Christ’s teaching about Catholic doctrine and dogma is fraught with error.
Start, for example, with your claim that the Pope claims to have divine inspiration. I assume you are thinking of the doctrine of papal infallibility. Infallibility is not a claim of divine inspiration. We believe that Christ gave authority over the church on earth to Peter. See Matt 16:13-19
8 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi 9 he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, 10 others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
11 Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood 12 has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, 13 and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. 14 Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
See also, this passage from the Gospel of John:
"When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’" (John 21:15-17).
The passage from Matthew is significant to Catholics in two ways. First, Christ chose to rename Simon as Kephas which is Aramaic for Rock. When God gives someone in the Bible a new name, it always signifies a new covenant (i.e. Abram and Sarai to Abraham and Sarah or Jacob to Israel.) Secondly, we hear that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against Christ’s church.
Infallibility isn’t divine inspiration or the absence of sin. Infallibility is what arises when you take Christ’s words to Peter at face value. The gates of Hell shall not prevail against Christ’s church. How is this supposed to happen? We believe that the Holy Spirit protects the church from false teaching. This doesn’t mean the pope is always right – it simply means that when speaking on matters of faith and morals that apply to the entire, universal church, the pope will not be allowed to teach error. The Holy Spirit doesn’t always provide the pope with all the right answers, but He won’t let the pope promulgate false dogma.
The authority and teaching power of the Bishop of Rome (the pope is also the Bishop of Rome) has been recognized since the earliest Christian times. See this passage from Clement of Rome, written in 80AD:
"Owing to the sudden and repeated calamities and misfortunes which have befallen us, we must acknowledge that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the matters in dispute among you, beloved; and especially that abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have inflamed to such madness that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be loved by all men, has been greatly defamed. . . . Accept our counsel and you will have nothing to regret. . . . If anyone disobey the things which have been said by him [God] through us [i.e., that you must reinstate your leaders], let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and in no small danger. . . . You will afford us joy and gladness if being obedient to the things which we have written through the Holy Spirit, you will root out the wicked passion of jealousy" (Letter to the Corinthians 1, 58–59, 63 [A.D. 80]).
Or this passage, also from Clement.
"Through countryside and city [the apostles] preached, and they appointed their earliest converts, testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers. Nor was this a novelty, for bishops and deacons had been written about a long time earlier. . . . Our apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife for the office of bishop. For this reason, therefore, having received perfect foreknowledge, they appointed those who have already been mentioned and afterwards added the further provision that, if they should die, other approved men should succeed to their ministry" (Letter to the Corinthians 42:4–5, 44:1–3 [A.D. 80]).
As a church, we believe that Christ did not found his church and then abandon it after his ascension. We believe that He gave the authority for His church on earth to Peter and to Peter’s successors. We also believe that He guides, guards and directs His church through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am sure there are many other specific practices with which you disagree and I will be more than happy to address any specific questions you may have.
You say in your letter that I need to do what I know is right and my response to you is that I have done what I needed to do.