December 22, 2014

Five Questions For Roman Catholics

UPDATE: Well, I am going to suppose this post got linked somewhere. Amy? What have you done to me? :-) I really appreciate the kindness and all the time represented in the answers. I haven’t read the thread, but have read the MANY emails that I received. I’ll catch up on the thread later. (Internet has been down.) I especially thank those of you who know that I am not interested in converting to the Roman Catholic Church, but have friends I love who quite possible may some day, and I am asking in reference to my relationship to them.

Again, thanks for your gracious answers and the very helpful, positive tone of the discussion.

I have some questions for a knowledgeable Roman Catholic. Pretty important matters.

1) Do Roman Catholics consider Protestant ministers like myself valid ministers? More particularly, if a good friend becomes Roman Catholic, are they now confessionally required to believe that I was never called of God to be a minister?

2) Why is so much of my dialog with Catholics frustrated with “cafeteria Catholicism?” Catholics will tell me that I must accept the church’s teaching on subject X, but if I point out that they also must accept the church’s teaching on subject Y, I often hear, “Don’t put words in my mouth. That’s not what I believe.” With all due respect, since when did the beliefs of an individual catholic matter? If a Protestant demonstrates that the church has infallibly taught Y, isn’t that the end of the discussion for the catholic?

3) What would be the church’s view on someone who is convinced the Catholic faith is true, but who is unable or chooses not to openly convert to Catholicism at this time? Is such a person committing a sin?

4) Exactly what is meant when a non-Catholic goes forward at communion to be blessed, but not partake? What if such a person- like myself- openly disagrees with some of the church’s teaching and is not seeking reception into the church?

5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage? Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

Comments

  1. Maybe you got 100 replies because your comments are moderated. Each of the hundred repliers saw your question and saw “Zero replies” under it, so they said “He certainly deserves at least one answer!”

    At least, that was the case with me! Have fun reading!

  2. I see you have plenty of input more expert than mine.

    I will, however, echo Fr. Stephen above about the general problems with the blessings during communion. The blessings during communion are not appropriate as a general matter. Please stay in your pew if you are not in a position to receive Our Lord, whether you’re Catholic or not. [Sure, we have to take small children up with us, but they don’t need to be blessed. They’ll get over it.]

  3. Related to point 2, I have often wondered why Catholic Bibles don’t include all the authoritative dogmatic statements by the Magisterium — conciliar documents and papal bulls — since they are regarded as authoritative as the 66 Books.

  4. marymargaret says:

    Peggy, your understanding of how we Catholics have always understood the procession to Holy Communion has validity. In the older times, no one thought twice about Catholics staying put in their pews. If anything, it was an indication of faith–I am truly not disposed to receive you, Lord–God help me and bless me. In the current time, however, it has become a matter of course for many priests to accept that a person may come forth, reverently, to receive a personal blessing. It may not be my way, or yours, but it is not that which is proscribed by the Church (to the best of my understanding). And therefore, what is not forbidden, is, in charity, acceptable.

    Oooh, BTW, I am more than thrilled to see Fr Alvin Kimel commenting here. We have missed your insights, Father. God bless you.

  5. Your interesting questions demonstrate fairly clearly that evangelical Protestants and Catholics really speak two different languages when it comes to church.

    Your first question, for instance, is basically meaningless in Catholic terms. A priest or deacon is “validly ordained” in Holy Orders by a bishop, who participates in the apostolic succession. Other people have been called to forms of lay ministry within the church, but are not in Holy Orders. Since you are not in Holy Orders, in the Catholic sense, you are not a priest, but there is no reason to say that you have not been called to ministry within your own community.

    Your second question, about cafeteria Catholics, is common to us all. It’s the result of ignorance in some cases and of deliberate refusal in others. Of course, as others have pointed out, not everything Catholic is infallible. This can be very confusing to Protestants (and to Catholics as well). It was a real breakthrough with a friend I was counseling when he realized that infallibility is clearly defined. However, while there are some things that Catholics are not required to believe (private revelations, for example) they are required to believe clearly defined doctrines and to give very serious consideration to everything taught by the ordinary magisterium.

    My understanding of your third question is that if a person is sincerely convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith and deliberately chooses not to join the church is committing a grave offense against the Holy Spirit. It is, in effect, refusing to come to the wedding feast (and we remember what hppened to those who delayed showing up). The precise degree of gravity would have to be judged by a priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation.

    My response to your fourth question, is what do you mean by it? If you disagree with the church’s teaching and do not want to be received into the church, why would you come forward at Communion, even for a blessing? You could always ask a priest for a blessing after Mass, but again, why would you? Communion means just that, that you are in communion with the church. If you’re not you shouldn’t be on line. We don’t see this practice very much in my parish. It’s only young children who have not yet made their First Communion that do this. I think I’ve only seen an adult do it once. No one is requird to approach the altar.

    I have no personal experience with your fifth question, never having been married. But from what I see in the marriages of friends marriage is more a partnership than a “leader/follower” relationship. Such a marriage would seem to be not the best. Perhaps a question could be raised here. If you reverse the direction, what would be the position of your church if a formerly Catholic wife wished to become an evangelical and her husband refused to let her?

  6. Thanks to Orthodox and others for straightening me out re: the #4 question – that the blessing of folks during Communion who don’t receive is an innovation and not a traditional practice. (God really used it for His glory in my case, though.)

  7. “Related to point 2, I have often wondered why Catholic Bibles don’t include all the authoritative dogmatic statements by the Magisterium — conciliar documents and papal bulls — since they are regarded as authoritative as the 66 Books.”

    That’s 73 books, darlin’.

    Why would the Bible contain the operating documents of the Church? The Bible is God’s inerrant Word, Spirit-breathed. Please don’t start an unpleasant and inaccurate sidetrack in what has been an interesting and respectful thread.

  8. Somewhere up in all those comments (sorry, I can’t seem to find the person’s name again), someone said something to the effect that Protestant ministers can’t administer valid sacraments. I am assuming (and I could be wrong) that the poster would then mean that sacraments administered by a Protestant pastor would not be recognized as valid by the Catholic church. In practice, I know this is wrong. The Catholic church recognizes any baptism done in the ordinary (Catholic speak for “normal”) way: using water and using the name of “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” In fact, the Catholic church is very cautious *not* to rebaptize. Also, marriages performed by Protestant ministers are valid sacraments of marriage recognized by the Catholic Church. You don’t have to get “remarried” by a priest.

    While I realize there are sacraments Protestant ministers cannot perform, such as the Eucharist, it is by no means true that they cannot perform any valid sacraments.

  9. Memphis Aggie says:

    I have experience on the last question (marriage). While the Catholic Church clearly teaches that a man is the proper spiritual head of the household, it also expects the children to be raised Catholic. I have direct experience of this. We went through an official Catholic engaged encounter with a priest. At that time I was Jewish, I’m now Catholic, in order to be married in the Church by a priest in the Church I was obligated to promise that we would raise the children as Catholics.

    If you have a pair that married outside of the Church and did not make this promise the marriage is still presumed to be sacramental and valid (as a default all marriages are presumed so).

    In general Catholics teach that Protestants have 2 of the seven sacraments available to them (Baptism and Marriage). There are missing: confirmation, confession, ordination, last rites, and most crucially communion. This last is the single biggest distinction and the reason the Pope holds that Protestant communities are groups bestowed with blessings but are not Churches. The Church is where the Eucharist is (Jesus in Person, in the Real Presence).

    What might not be obvious is that the sacraments are “stacked”. That is, a proper Eucharsit can only be received (from Heaven – literally) by a properly ordained priest who obviously must also be baptized and confirmed. Interestingly the priests personal state of grace is not a barrier to reception – even priests under mortal sin can receive valid Eucharist. Because it’s not about the priest: Christ wants to be joined with us in the Eucharist (see St Gertrude St Faustina etc). Catholics teach that the Eucharist is the source of many blessings if we receive it validly (after confession) and with humility. He pours His graces out on us through it. It is meant to be transformative in that Christ literally replaces us with Himself to the degree that we submit and obey.

    Doubtless there are many better comments than this one in this thread – I haven’t read them all. In any case thank you so much for being so polite and open to discussion on our faith.

    I would like to make one small point however. I just read last night in one of the Popes many books a comment that seems appropriate here. In a nutshell he said that faith is not a matter of persuasion and should not be. We can not reason/argue our way to the truth. It is matter of truth and must be found through faith. Further faith is the foundation upon which love of God and the Church must rest. Doubtless you know this already because your approach is so refreshingly Christian in the best sense.

  10. Some comments on 1 & 2:

    1: Many are saying that Protestant ministers “can’t administer the sacraments validly” due to a lack of holy orders. This might be confusing to some Protestants for whom the sacraments are the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. Protestant ministers *can*, and do, validly baptize, as can any other person. I think it wouldn’t be going too far to say that baptism is one of the proper and appropriate functions for a Protestant minister. Likewise a Protestant marriage officiated at by a Protestant minister is perfectly valid (assuming no prior impediments, such as a previous existing marriage, etc.).

    Further, the Lord’s Supper in a Protestant church, while not in Catholic understanding including the Real Presence (in the sacramental sense–I’m sure Christ is present in the sense of two or three gathered together in His name), is surely “valid” in the sense intended by the Christians there present.

    I just don’t want any readers thinking “The Catholics think our baptisms and marriages aren’t valid!” And as others have pointed out, “validity” is a technical term in Catholicism. I think you mean something like “recognized by Christ,” to which I would say, why not? Does any Catholic here doubt that Fred Rogers (a Presbyterian minister) in his ministry to children, or Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., were chosen by Christ to the ministries they held? If *they* didn’t hear “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” I think I’m toast.

    2: This question left me uneasy, because of the number of times on the blasted internet I’ve seen something like this: “I just demonstrated to you, benighted Romanist, that the Council of Trent, teaching x and y, inexorably entails a doctrine of z [some abominable evil thing], which therefore you as a Catholic must believe.” And the Catholic says “Hey, don’t put words in my mouth!” And from there on it’s all downhill.

    It’s not cafeteria Catholicism if the Magisterium consists of Truly Reformed Blogger’s Infallible Interpretation of Sixteenth-Century Documents. On the other hand, if it’s a matter of something plainly taught by the Church, forthrightly in the Catechism, then the Catholic is fair game.

    Fangirl moment: Your blog rocks, Michael! I’ve already been impressing Baptist friends in my book club with my (recently acquired) knowledge of Baptist theology. Cafeteria Baptists, look out! Ha!

  11. Nobody Really says:

    Me again.

    Re: the blessing/communion line thing.

    One view I have heard mooted about this is that the new idea of people traipsing up to get “blessed” when not participating in the Sacrament of Communion is that it goes along with the post-Second Council liturgical innovations, many of which moved the human actors to the centre of the Mass. For instance, while the addition of the altar of sacrifice allows the presider to face the people, it changes the equality of all before the Blessed Sacrament: in the Tridentine Rite, everyone faces the same direction, all focussed on the miracle of transubstatiation. Latterly, it appears that it is the celebrant who is “doing something” to the bread and wine. Similar innovations, like moving the altar of repose to the side and moving the presiding chair to the middle of the sanctuary, have a similar effect of promoting the importance of the celebrant and the humans over the importance of the Blessed Sacrament itself.

    But this is sort of off-topic for this thread, so I’ll shut up now.

  12. I feel the need to comment on the responses for question number two. The term “Cafeteria Catholic” might make it sound to some that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on those who pick and choose their own tenets of faith.

    I note a significant amount of apologizing going on for these people who are obedient to part of their church’s teaching but reject others, as if nobody but a Catholic would ever do this.

    Please don’t forget that this is a very common human condition. It just becomes more obvious within a church that does not offer over 4000 versions of it’s doctrine as the Protestant church does. If another Christian was faced with a similar disagreement, he or she would have the opportunity to find the the denomination that conforms to their beliefs rather than having to reflect more deeply on the possibility that it is their beliefs that are in error, rather than the church’s.

    What I see is a problem with so many people who desire to be Catholic without realizing that it is not a club that one just belongs to. A practicing Catholic is called to be obedient to God as he manifests himself through scripture, tradition and the Magisterium.

  13. I know you’ve gotten far more answers than you could want, but as a Catholic married to a Reformed Protestant man, I wanted to tackle #5.

    5) What is the church’s view of leadership and submission in marriage?

    I don’t think there is a clear answer for this one, which suggests that “submission” is simply not as big of an issue in Catholicism as it is in conservative Protestantism. John Paul II seemed to teach “mutual submission” rather than the kind of strict male-headship model. However, I don’t think his vision of mutual submission is authoritative, and Catholics are free to hold other models. Short answer, then: the Catholic Church doesn’t officially teach much about submission at all.

    One thing that I think all Catholics would agree, though, is that submission does not apply to matters of sin. (My Presbyterian husband agrees with this too, by the way.) One spouse can’t force another to violate his or her conscience. In a Catholic-Protestant marriage, this has implications not just for attendance at worship, but also for sexual practices and possibly (with a younger couple) child-rearing.

    Would the church teach that a wife should join the church over the objections of her Christian, but Protestant, spouse? If so, how does this fit into the church’s teaching on marriage?

    I think the answer is “Yes, in some cases.” As I mentioned above, Catholics do not think that submission applies to matters of sin. If a spouse is conscience-bound to join the Roman Catholic Church, then the other spouse has no authority to prevent him or her.

    Having said that, I think the best way to understand this is to look at the matter not in terms of “sin” but in terms of grace.

    Catholics are sacramental Christians, as you know. We believe that the sacraments are means of salvation. We believe that they help us grow in holiness. They are -or ought to be- at the heart of Christian life.

    And yet, Catholics do not believe that Protestant communities can offer all of the sacraments. In particular, we do not believe that Protestant celebrations of the Lord’s Supper are equivalent to the sacrament of the Eucharist as it was meant to be. And as for the sacrament of reconciliation -the other sacrament most regularly needed by the average Christian- it isn’t available in any form in many Protestant communities. From a Catholic perspective, then, a husband who prevents his wife from receiving the sacraments in the Catholic Church is attempting to prevent her from receiving the most basic aides to sanctification. The question to my mind is: what Christian husband would do that? How is preventing your wife from receiving the graces she needs for daily life showing Christ-like love?

    I understand that the husband in question may feel that the Catholic Church is in grievous error, but a man cannot make up his wife’s mind -or her conscience- for her. Nowhere does the Bible say that a wife is to let her husband make her profession of faith FOR her. If a wife believes that the fullness of grace and truth are to be found in the Catholic Church, and not in her Protestant community; if she hungers to receive the sacraments as celebrated in the Catholic Church; if she believes that her current church is flawed and cannot offer her what she needs to grow in Christ, then her husband has no right to prevent her from receiving these things.Family unity is important, but you cannot have a spiritually healthy family if the individual members are not allowed to thrive.

  14. Here’s the best go of a guy w/ 16 years of Catholic schools:

    1. The church would not recognize you as a minister in the way that we would recognize a priest, but that is not to say that we would reject the idea of you having a calling. It seems clear that God would object to the sad state of division that exists among Christians and we would believe that all are called to Catholicism. That certainly does not means that God does not tap non-Catholics to take on a shephards role for those who love Him but cannot bring themselves to the Catholic Church.

    2. We are sinners. We are bound to accept the authoritative magisterium. That doesn’t mean we all succeed.

    3. This could be a tough one, but I believe that an individual may not deny the truth which he believes but is not required to advertise everything he believes. Looking at early Christians during periods of persecution as a model it is clear one cannot deny Christ or the truth. They also did not go looking for the nearest imperial soldier and started preaching at him. If someone believes that Catholicism holds the truth there is a duty to not deny it and to move toward it in prudence.

    4. What it means to the party coming forward is highly individual, but what it means to us is that this person seeks the grace and blessing of God. We would not assume that seeking a blessing implies complete union in belief but that the individual honors us and God by seeking Him through our worship.

    5. A husbands leadership in marriage does not extend to the point at which the wife must act in bad conscience. Her first duty is always to God and the truth. She must honor and respect her husband, but cannot be bound to deny the truth or act contrary to rightly formed conscience.

    Hope it helps.

    Pax vobiscum.

  15. “Michael Bates

    Related to point 2, I have often wondered why Catholic Bibles don’t include all the authoritative dogmatic statements by the Magisterium — conciliar documents and papal bulls — since they are regarded as authoritative as the 66 Books. ”

    This is worth a new thread, somewhere else perhaps.

    Because the Bible would weigh like 70 pounds? Joking.

    The Bible is the Word of God. Scripture is revelation, not dogma or doctrine. Dogmatic statements and conciliar documents carry authority, but it isn’t the same authority (although it is derived from the same authority), and it isn’t revelation. Specifically, no one can add anything to the body of revelation passed on to us by the apostles.

    Besides, have you ever actually read any of these? Dryer than Leviticus. Typically, these documents are written for the Bishops and Priests and Theologians, the average Catholic is better served with a Catechism summarizing and explaining. Although, for the ambitious, I do recommend reading some of the documents of Vatican II. As for Bulls and Encyclicals, they are not infallible documents.

  16. I wanted to correct a misconception I saw in a couple of posts:

    The reason for this is simple: a marriage outside the Church or of non-Catholics is a valid natural marriage but not a valid sacramental marriage. A valid sacramental marriage gives grace in a way all other marriages do not.

    The marriage of two baptized Christians is a sacramental marriage, unless there is some other bar to validity. Two Protestants who are married in their own church have a sacramental marriage. A Catholic and a Protestant who marry in accordance with the Catholic Church also have a sacramental marriage. It is not true that “mixed marriages” aren’t sacramental, if we are talking about marriages between Christians.

    See here for better information about Catholic-Protestant intermarriages (Scroll down to IV C.). This happens to be something that many Catholics are misinformed about.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_25031993_principles-and-norms-on-ecumenism_en.html

  17. The responses have been pretty good, particularly to the first question. As for #4 I would just had that the blessing here is a pastoral act rather than a liturgical one. From a Catholic standpoint, it would be the reception of communion that would imply seeking full reception into the church. The blessing is a pastoral response for a priest who finds a person in line but who is not seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.

  18. Please don’t use the term “cafeteria Catholic”. It’s insulting. The most evil person on the planet has dignity as a human person, and we should treat them accordingly, with respect. People who dissent from Church teachings are usually as sincere (and possibly successful) in trying to follow God as those of us who are “faithful” Catholics.

    We should still persist in encouraging them to accept Church doctrine whole-heartedly. But complaining about or insulting someone isn’t the way to draw them into the path you think they should be on.

  19. In the sacrament of Matrimony, it is the man and woman who are the ministers. They administer the sacrament to each other. The priest is not a minister he is merely the Church’s official witness. Can a Protestant minister validly marry? Yes, but only his own spouse.

    As for baptism, even a non-Christian can be a valid extraordinary minister of the sacrament.

  20. 1. What do you mean by minister? We don’t believe that you’ve been validly ordained and received the sacrament of holy orders. We do believe that God can and does every human being to a vocation, and your vocation may very well be to serve others by bringing them the word of God. But if you converted to Catholicism, you wouldn’t automatically be a priest, you’d have to be ordained one.

    2. Well, if the Church has infalliably taught a doctrine then all Catholics must accept it. However, the vast majority of what the Church teaches on social issues, etc, has not been taught infalliably, and there would be a difference of opinion among Catholics on whether one can be a good Catholic while disagreeing on certain issues. If a teaching involves ‘grave matter’ and the Catholic knowingly disobeys that teaching, the Catholic is likely in a state of mortal sin and should participate in reconciliation before receiving Communion.

    3. That’s a good question. The Church doesn’t teach that baptism by water is strictly necessary for salvation, but I would expect that anyone who believes what the Church teaches is true would consider it prudent to seek baptism. I don’t see why you would be required to, but it would be prudent, because the Church also does not teach that people necessarily can be saved without baptism (although most scholars agree that there is solid support for the idea that people who are not baptized Catholic can still be saved).

    Of course, if this person had full knowledge of the teachings of the Church, this person would be committing a mortal sin if he disobeyed the teachings involving grave matter.

    4. It means you’re blessed. You don’t have to be Catholic, Christian or even human to be blessed. The priest will often bless pets on St. Francis’ feast day. People have their cars blessed. Usually, at Communion this is offered as a way to make people welcome even if they can’t receive Communion.

    5. The Church would encourage everyone to convert to Catholicism. The Church would not encourage someone to remain Protestant to please her husband. However, the Church equally doesn’t permit divorce, so if the marriage was valid her parish would almost certainly provide counseling and assistance for her marriage.

    The Church views marriage, like any relationship between the sexes, as a relationship of equality and a woman is not expected to submit to her husband.

  21. Holy cow, what a thread.

    I was raised Catholic but would hardly call myself educated or informed enough to address any of Michael’s questions. A couple comments, however:

    Derek writes: Understanding what the Church believes is essential to furthering Christ’s mission in the world. Unfortunately we have not done a great job in that department recently.

    I have to say, I don’t think that fault for that can be laid at the feet of the Church. The reformulation/republication of the Catechism in paperback form was a great step, but while its existence is now part of USA awareness, actual cognizance of its contents lags seriously behind because, to be honest, the USA is not currently a culture of readers.

    (Moment of silence.)

    That’s the fault of the people, not the fault of the hierarchy, but nevertheless that leaves the Church with two choices: either promote the book even more heavily and hope that more people will be willing to crack it open, or expand to other media. Video runs a great risk of looking silly, unless it takes the Mormon approach of “affirming good values” without engaging in discussion of doctrine — which would eliminate the point of the exercise. Podcasting, perhaps?

    Which sort of points to a big problem inherent to the RCC in America: democratic spirit and top-down dogma don’t always mix well. And considering the breadth and depth of RCC doctrine, I can’t help wondering that if all American Catholics really, truly knew all of what they were expected to believe and endorse, 50% of them, or more, would fly the coop.

    Which brings me to my other comment. Carrie writes: As a person seriously looking into the RCC, this frustrates me, too. I can’t take the church dogmas lightly, and won’t join unless I can support them. I know plenty of cafeteria Catholics, but I can’t rationalize joining the church if I thought I’d be one, too.

    Amen, sister. I love the RCC and, living in a thickly Protestant culture of semi-rural/suburban Indiana, often find myself defending her even when I don’t agree with her (in the same sort of spirit as those people who quote the Second Amendment: “I may not agree with what you say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”). But I just can’t go back to her in good conscience; maybe I’m just too Americanized (or too Protestantized ;-) ), but I can’t promise to surrender my discernment to the Guy in Rome, even understanding the limitations placed on ex cathedra papal infallibility.

    (Which reminds me of another problem the RCC faces in the USA right now — speaking to a public who have no interest in learning arcane terminology in English, much less in Latin. But I digress.)

  22. Wow! I’m edified by the nuanced unity of these comments, especially considering that about 100 of them were posted without seeing the answers of others…

  23. Memphis Aggie says:

    A couple of points raised here at the end might need clarification. Baptism is required to be accepted into the Catholic Church ( I used to be Jewish – I know). However nearly all non Catholic Christians have valid Baptisms in the eyes of Catholics. Catholics also have the sacraments of confirmation and confession which are both required before the first reception of the Eucharist (i.e sacraments are received in stages).

    This brings me to the second point: conversion also occurs in stages and is viewed as a continual life long process of sanctification. Thus you are not expected to fully grasp or agree with all of the Churches teachings. You are only expected to believe the Creed, have faith in the Church, and to continue your education as you deepen in faith and practice.

    Further many (including me) will never fully understand all the doctrine and we don’t need to. Today is the Feast of Saint Joseph of Cupertino who although Holy, was never strong on doctrine, rather his faith was childlike in it’s purity. As an official Saint the Church recognizes his heroic virtue is possible without intellectual understanding. We don’t reason our way to Christ we open ourselves to Him through faith. Faith first understanding comes later as needed. To be Catholic you have to trust the worldly representatives of the faith even over personal revelation (conflicts between personal revelations and the Church occur in the lives of several Saints such as St. Faustina).

    Over time you learn the reasoning behind the rules you begin to appreciate the time and care that went into formulating the documents that clarify the faith. Whether is the Theology of the Body or Pope Benedict’s “God is Love” encyclical there is more there than can be picked up in a typical Journey to Catholicism class.

  24. I see you have many responses, but I can’t help piling on:

    1. Valid ministers of what? The sacraments? No. God’s grace? Interesting question. I thought Protestants believed that no intermediary between the individual was necessary or possible. I don’t understand the Protestant theology of ordained ministry. But as a Catholic, I can readily believe that God wants you, a Protestant minister, to help bring people to Him.

    2. My view is that a Catholic is obligated to accept all of the authentic Magisterial teachings of the Church. Now, there can sometimes be legitimate debate about just what those include, but for the most part it’s pretty clear. A Catholic, to take a common example, who rejects the Church’s teaching that the use of artificial contraception is a grave sin, is choosing to place his own preferences above the teaching of the Church founded by Christ and protected by the Holy Spirit. The essence of Catholic faith is the idea that God is able to provide us an institution, which, through its Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, is capable of reliably preserving and teaching the truth throughout the ages. To me, rejecting any part of that deposit of faith, or improvising any new part, rejects that essential kernel of what the Church really is.

    3. Yes, and a mortal sin, too. If you know that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and teaches the divine truths passed down from the Apostles, and yet leave it or refuse to enter, that’s a sin of pride and aloofness of (to me) appalling degree.

    4. It strikes me that, if you were to seek a blessing (but not Communion) from a Catholic priest, it would indicate your acceptance that the priest is, in some sense, a minister serving the same God you work to serve. If I were to witness such an occurrence, I would take it as a gesture of respect to the celebrant, a statement of Christian solidarity (though not complete communion) with the congregation and, not least, an act of worship of God.

    5. I’m not competent to authoritatively give the Church’s teaching in such a matter, but my opinion is this: If a woman were to be convinced that the Catholic Church was where she belonged, what sort of husband would prevent her from following her conscience?

    I hope you find these answers interesting, useful, and/or entertaining, and may God bless you. I probably won’t check back here, but please feel free to email me if you should want to discuss these comments further.

  25. 1. Your ministry may have been authored by God, but not in concert with His Church. That a person FEELS called noone can dispute; but only the bishop can recognize that calling sacramentally.

    2. It should be. Unfortunately an entire generation of American Catholics in the baby-boomer generation bought into the notion that the Second Vatican Council was about enthroning the individual conscience to the exclusion of all prior teaching of the magisterium. Vatican II merely recognized the role of the conscience in the acquisition of belief in a way the Church hadn’t previously. So individuality in belief (when backed by the claims of libertarian social movements of the time) has become more secure in some Catholics than obedience to all sources of teaching, including those that exist outside the individual.

    3. Your journey into the fullness of Truth cannot be forced or coerced under threat of sin; pray for the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit, who will nourish seeds planted in fertile soil.

    4. The practice of receiving a blessing in lieu of Communion is not universally observed, though its meaning can hardly be denied: the gesture says to non-communicants, “You are loved and blessed too.” It also emphasizes, without intending to, that you are clearly NOT in full communion, a fact that may have been overlooked if you’d merely stayed in your pew. I suggest praying for Holy Communion with Jesus at this time during the mass rather than shuffling up for a blessing. Your prayer will be answered in the fullness of God’s time. The fact that you’re not partaking in communion is clear evidence that you do not seek reception. Why is that so? Consult Jesus in prayer.

    5. Loaded question, Mr. Monk. Clearly you’ve been giving way too much thought to the subject for someone “not” seeking reception. But I digress…

    Husband and wife are given to each other– not even the priest can sunder the two once joined. If a non-Catholic marries a Catholic, that spouse has already made a submission, for the Catholic spouse cannot do otherwise. If both are non-Catholic and one wants to join, that should be the occasion for much prayer on the part of both. Ultimately we are all free children before God. It would be a heartlessly unfit husband who would prevent his wife if she truly believed Christ was calling her home.

    You see, the Church does not teach union to the point of individual dissolubility. Both must come to the sacrament freely. And both live out their faithfulness to Christ in each other. Catholic marriage means self-donation to the other, who represents Christ. So— your scenario figures remarkably well: if Christ has willed the wife to fulfill her communion with Jesus, then husband must obey as he would obey Christ himself.

  26. Really excellent questions and the answers I have read are excellent. One concept I have not seen yet is that of continual conversion.
    Many cradle Catholics of today received less than a complete training in the Faith. As they discover parts of the Faith that are new to them and contrary to the World’s truth it can take time to accept them. Especially if your main training was in forming your own conscience instead in following Christ, through His Church, without reservation.
    My husband and I were Cradle Catholics. I had more Faith training than he, but he accepts Christ’s discipline far more readily than I. Still while the burden is light it is there, and not always easily accepted.
    I for one, need to be more moldable.

  27. Did anyone answer Phil’s question (17th Sept)?

    Phil said: “The issue for me, I guess, is “how convinced is ‘convinced’”; what exactly does this mean? Is a certain amount of faith asked for? What level of conviction is required for faith to be expected?
    Sorry to butt in, but I hope a Catholic can answer these corollary questions for me as well.”

    I can only think of the Prodigal Son whose first reason for returning home was that his father’s servants had more food than he did! And what was the father’s response? To run to him, to embrace him, to dress him, to put a ring on his finger, to throw a party for him and to defend him against a hard-done-by older brother.

    I’m not saying, Phil, that you’re the Prodigal Son :-) but what amazing love the Father showed when his son arrived home – and the reasoning/conviction the son had was not so strong!

    Home was the best place for the son to experience that love. Just like the Catholic church (imho) is the best place to experience Our Heavenly Father’s love.

    Mercy, mercy, mercy.

    I hope this helps.

    Blessings.

    PS On the point of blessings… Theologically and within tradition they may not have a strong basis, but my Dad received a blessing every week for over 30 years. He converted 10 years ago. My question would be: why stop at a blessing when you can be fed and nourished by the truly life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus? Kind of like having a sip of water instead of the best champagne.