It's inevitable, when discussing religion and the Catholic faith, one will run into three little words: "Well, "I" think...!" In so many cases this is fine, but I wonder if there are three more dangerous words than that in regards to religion and the faith.
It's one thing, when working on car, to say, "Well I think the carburetor is sticking." Or "Well, I think they should have run a passing play." Or, "Well I think Freud was right and Jung was wrong." Etc. In most things, we can think. The Church encourages this, but many think they're the final say on what is right or wrong.
"If there is no branch of teaching, however humble and easy to learn, which does not require a master, what can be a greater sign of rashness and pride than to refuse to study the books of the divine mysteries by the help of those who have interpreted them?" (St. Augustine, circa 400 AD)
When trying to discuss the Scriptures and how they relate to the Church with non-Catholics, one will hear, "The Holy Spirit within me teaches me the correct translation of the Scripture." This stems from Luther's thought that any nine year-old could read and understand Scripture. A belief he later bemoaned when, after the Scriptures were being interpreted 100 different ways by 100 different people, he stated that every scullery maid in Germany thought herself a Biblical scholar.
Of course, we Catholics recognize this 'gift' as the gift of infallibility. However, if the Holy Spirit is with them to guide them in the mysteries of the Scriptures, why are there so many different interpretations? And, how do they know it's the Holy Spirit guiding them, if He didn't guide them in the initial reading of the Scriptures? How could they be sure they correctly read it the first time?
"The heretics do away with the true doctrine of the Lord, not interpreting and transmitting the Scriptures agreeably to the dignity of God and the Lord... For neither the prophets nor the Savior Himself announced the divine mysteries so simply as to be easily comprehended by all persons whatever...All things are right to them that understand, says the Scripture: to those, that is, who perfectly preserve His revealed interpretation of the Scriptures, according to the Church's rule." (St. Clement of Alexandria, circa 150 AD)
Now, for our Protestant brothers, this is really no big deal. This was how they were raised, this was how they were taught. Unbeknownst to them, they too rely on 'teachers' who have interpreted the Scriptures for them, according to the rules of 'their' church.
But more and more, Catholics are being led to believe that they don't need anyone to tell them what is right or wrong, true or false. If one discusses artificial birth control with such a one, we may hear, "Well, I think the Church is wrong in that teaching. I've come to a rational decision on it and do not agree with the Church." In the least, they're relying solely on the mercy of God, that He'll understand and accept their objections, at worst, they're in open rebellion.
The Church has no authority to ordain women priests..."Well, I think that's just patriarchal sexism." "Well, I think Ordinatio Sacerdotalis isn't an infallible or valid teaching of the Church."
The Church teaches that sexual contact between unmarried couples, or couples of the same gender, is a serious sin. "Well, I think the Church has no business telling me how to live my life." "Well, I think it's perfectly natural and the Church..." Well, you get the idea.
Often, if you challenge them on it, they'll tell you that "The Spirit in me guides me." Or "God gave us a mind to use. I'm not going to blindly follow an ignorant, sexist, homophobic, patriarchal Church."
Whereas our Protestant brothers and sisters rely on their teachers to guide them to a part of the truth, we see here that these 'enlightened' Catholics rely on themselves, their own minds, to seek for 'their' truth.
They may tell you that the Bible is full of errors brought about by politically motivated men and the passage of time. Some may even try to tell us that the Bible is just a fictional book written by men trying to create a Church and make themselves powerful.
"No error is to be admitted in the Bible, not even concerning things of but little importance…..If any statements should 'seem' contrary to truth, we must not accuse the Author of the Book (God) of falsehood: we should rather conclude, either than (a) the text is defective; or (b) that the interpreter has mistaken the meaning; or (c) that we misunderstood." (St Augustine, circa 400)
We may read in Acts:
"One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul. And when she was baptized, with her household, she besought us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us" (Acts 16:14-15).
Somehow, from this, we're supposed to think Lydia was a priestess? Or this:
"I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deaconess of the church at Cenchreae, that you may receive her in the Lord as befits the saints, and help her in whatever she may require from you, for she has been a helper of many and of myself as well" (Romans 16:1-2).
In one translation, it reads that she's in a ministry of the Church. We know there were deaconess', and that they were usually widows who assisted the priests in dealing with the women of the parish. But they were never an ordained office. In fact, it was because many of them began to act as though it was that it was closed. But here, we see that Phoebe assists Paul and others. No where does Paul call her a presbyter, a fellow Apostle, or any such thing, only that she assists him and others.
In many areas, we see Church teaching and the Scriptures, distorted with "Well, I think.."
Some of these are
- a) St. Paul condemned male prostitutes, not homosexuality;
- b) the sin of Sodom was inhospitality, not sexual sins.
- c) the Apostles (or someone) purposely wrote the women out of the Last Supper.
- d) Mary Magdalene was an Apostle.
There is no Scriptural evidence for these assumptions, they come from 'rational' thought, "Well, "I" think..."
"The science of the Scriptures is the only one which all persons indiscriminately claim as their own! This science the babbling old woman, the doting old man, the wordy sophist, take upon themselves; they tear it to pieces and teach before they have learned…..Rather they accommodate to their interpretation the most incongruous passages, as if this were something great instead of a most faulty method of teaching, distorting sentences and forcing the reluctant Scriptures to their own whims." (St. Jerome circa 400)
As I said before, some say that the Scriptures are tainted by men who translated them erroneously or for political purposes. Yet, they turn around and try to reword the Scriptures for...political purposes.
Inclusive language is making inroads for no other reason than political purposes.
"There are also theological problems with so-called 'horizontal' inclusive
language. We can subtly change the meaning of the text. With inspired writings
like Scripture, that's dangerous business. The Old Testament, for instance,
prefigures Christ. When the psalmist says 'Happy the man who walks in the way of
the Lord' he's speaking on two levels. He speaks of all of us.
But he also is writing about Christ. When we say 'happy is the man or the woman' we're losing that. Also, when we
replace the term 'sons' with 'children,' we get into trouble. They don't mean
the same thing. A 'child' is primarily defined as the opposite of an 'adult' --
a small person. A son is primarily an heir, offspring. I heard this done
recently. The reading was Galatians 4: 'So through God you are no longer a slave
but a son, and if a son then an heir.' The reader changed it to '. . . you are
no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then an heir.'" ("Inclusive Language" Undermines Beauty, Meaning; by Mary Beth Bonacci)
The whole inclusive language thing is so blatantly political that one has to wonder how we ever got suckered into it? Man, mankind, have always been associated with both man and women. Seriously, it take someone with a serious mental deficiency to think that, when use din general terms, it refers only to men.
"In this case, I am voting firmly with the majority. On the most basic level, I
have always found such efforts to be awkward, unattractive, and very
condescending. I'm not stupid. I know that the term "mankind" refers to men and
women. I know that the song 'I Will Raise Him Up' isn't saying that only males
will enter the kingdom of Heaven. True story: A friend of mine was in a liturgy
meeting where this topic was being argued. One nun said that the term 'man'
didn't include her. A priest said, 'Sister, if I told you there was a man-eating
tiger outside, would you feel safe?' (Ibid)
"St. Augustine himself confessed that there was more that he did not know than that he knew, so, if he should come on anything that seems incapable of solution, he must take to heart the cautious rule of the same holy doctor: 'It is better even to be oppressed by unknown but useful signs than to interpret them uselessly, and thus to throw off the yoke only to be caught in the trap of error' "(Pope Leo XIII; 1893).
If we could enter into the mind of a fly, he might see a ripe, red fruit, smelling of sugar. "Well, I think I'll go a get some lunch." And landing on the Venus Flytrap, dies, trapped by his own error.
We have to remember, that no rule, no teaching in the Church was ever made to secure power, but to secure a path for her children to enter Heaven. When we hear the Church teach, using the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, it's God teaching us through Her.
"He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him Who sent Me" (Luke 10:16).
What are we saying when we respond to that teaching with "Well, I think...?"
Think about it and you, too, will realize the impact of those three very dangerous words.