DAILY CATHOLIC     THURSDAY     August 12, 1999     vol. 10, no. 151


To print out entire text of Today's issue, go to SECTION ONE and SECTION TWO
          Pat Ludwa, a committed lay Catholic from Cleveland, has been asked to contribute, on a regular basis, a lay person's point of view on the Church today. We have been impressed with his insight and the clear logic he brings to the table from his "view from the pew." In all humility, by his own admission, he feels he has very little to offer, but we're sure you'll agree with us that his viewpoint is exactly what millions of the silent majority of Catholics believe and have been trying to say as well. Pat puts it in words that help all of us better understand and convey to others what the Church teaches and we must believe.

          Today Pat writes about the greatest treasure we have: our faith in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. He points out that while so many seemingly have all the answers to how the Church should be, it all boils down to what Jesus taught and His insistence that He would not compromise. Pat shows how we cannot compromise either but rather should echo Peter's words to Christ, "Lord, to whom shall we go?". The answer is: nowhere, for in Jesus is the Truth, the Way, and the Life which has been handed down to us through the Church He founded and gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter as the first Pope and which continues today with Pope John Paul II as Pat reminds us in his column The Church, God's Gift of Love.

          If you want to send him ideas or feedback, you can reach him at Padraic42@aol.com

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, click on VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

The Church, God's Gift of Love

        "As parishes die, the schools close, the pews empty. The clergy and religious communities are more scant in numbers, it would be good to wake up and read the writing on the wall."

          So wrote a fellow who responded to me about an editorial I sent to our local paper. On the surface, it seems very logical and true, something should be done to try and stem the tide of desertion from the faith. However, he also, unknowingly, gave a perfect reason why such things are happening.

          "People no longer need to submit to a theology that is handed down sentence by sentence, word by word from a pope and his Vatican. People can and are building their own theology."

          Obviously, if this is true, then there is no need for parishes, no need for Catholic schools, no need to try and fill empty pews. If we are free, as Catholics, to make our own theology, then we have no need to attend Mass, we can worship God in a meadow, or a football game. No need to learn the faith, the how's and why's of our faith, whatever we want or 'feel' is perfectly okay. No need then for priests, nuns, or other religious. In fact, when groups like Call To Action call for small faith groups which may meet in someone's dining room and be 'guided' by a community ordained facilitator, one can see that their 'complaint' is precisely what they hope for. So it should come as no surprise that we see empty pews, etc.

          "They have the right to do and to make their spiritual search without being hushed or thrown out by Rome."

          Of course they have that right, but does that also mean they have right to call themselves Catholic? Free will means having the right to accept or reject God, His Church, etc. Of course there are consequences, but it seems no one told them that.

          "But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8).

          "And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:12-15).

          It's pretty clear that St. Paul, nor any of the Apostles, advocated 'building ones own theology'.

          Do we have an example of this from Christ, or, as many seem to think, did the Apostles begin this 'dictatorship' of theology? Is it true that the Church has to change it's teachings in order to 'save' mass desertions?

          In John 6, we read how Christ and His disciples went ahead after His miracle of multiplying the bread and fish. A large multitude followed Him and His disciples and heard His teaching on the Eucharist. Almost immediately, there was a problem. "The Jews then murmured at Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from Heaven." They said, 'Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, 'I have come down from Heaven'?''.The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' Many of His disciples, when they heard it, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' But Jesus, knowing in Himself that His disciples murmured at it,…. After this many of His disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him. Jesus said to the twelve, 'Do you also wish to go away?'" (John 6: 41-41; 52; 60-61; and 68-67).

          From a multitude of disciples to, at least, only twelve. But Christ didn't change one iota of His teaching. Scriptures are full of such examples where His teachings confronted the 'norms' of His day. His enemies even tried to use this well-known trait to try and trap Him.

          "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" (Matthew 22:16-17).

          So, it's clear that Christ wasn't interested in the numbers game, nor cared to change His teachings to suit the norm of the day.

          The early Church, often misused to try and justify their error, saw the danger of this 'self made' theology. "It is on him [Peter] that He [Jesus] builds the church, and to him that He entrusts the sheep to feed [ref. John 21:15-17]. And although He assigns power to all the apostles, yet He founded a single chair, thus establishing the sources and hallmark of the churches' oneness. No doubt the others were all that Peter was, but a primacy is given to Peter and it is thus made clear that there is but one church and one chair…..If a man does not hold fast to this oneness of Peter, does he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he deserts the Chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, has he still confidence that he is in the Church?" (St. Cyprian; On the Unity of the Catholic Church).

          The Church is great gift of God. Without something, or someone to teach us what He taught, what would become of us? In fact, why not just come down, tell us we're free and leave? Why did He spend 3 years teaching the Apostles if it weren't in His plan to send them in His name?

          In fact, He said precisely that. "Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw Him they worshipped Him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.'" (Matthew 28: 16-20).

          It has to be pointed out that the commission to teach in His name was given to His remaining eleven Apostles, not to all of His disciples. Though we 'teach by our example and word, we do so under their guidance; not of our own accord, by our own authority, by our own wants and desires. We repeat to Christ what His Apostles said in John 6. "Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69).

          We don't need to concern ourselves with theological discussions, only believe and live what we say each and every Sunday (or are supposed to say):

      "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth. And of all things visible and invisible. And in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father. God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God. Begotten, not made, one in being with the Father, through Whom all things were made. It was for us and our salvation that He came down from Heaven and was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified died, and was buried. On the third day He arose again, according to the Scriptures He ascended into Heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father. He shall come again to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom will have no end. We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. Together with the Father and Son, He is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Scriptures. We believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. We confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins and look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."

          Here is our faith in a nut shell. We do not 'trust' Scripture because men wrote it and men may be mistaken. We do not trust the Church because, again, it is full of frail, humans, who, again, may be wrong. This is the premise of those who wish to change the teachings of the Church to suit the 'Zeitgeist, the spirit of the times.

          However, our 'trust' isn't based on men, but God. It is because we do believe in God that we 'trust' the Church He established to teach ALL nations His teachings for ALL time (ref. Matthew 28:16-20).

          We 'trust' that He guides and guards His Church so that it will always do His will and follow His commands (Ibid).

          We 'trust' the Scriptures which were written under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (see the Creed). And, again, we 'trust' the Church, which compiled and guarded the Scriptures, to help us interpret and understand those Scriptures.

          The Church is here, not as a man made organization, but by the very hand of God. A gift, a voice of authority, teaching in His name and with His authority, so that we can trust that what it says is true. If it is otherwise, then God is a liar, and/or a fool, since Christ promised. "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).

          If it is, as many think, an authoritarian, patriarchal monolith seeking to regain or retain it's grip on "the illiterate mobs', then that Church has been overcome by the powers of death, the gates of hell.

          My friend ended his note to me by saying that it is useless to fight for the Church, but recommends I let it die. But can I? Will God? Again, is God then a liar or a fool?

          As G.K. Chesterton wrote: "At least five times, . . . with the Arian and the Albigensian, with the Humanist sceptic, after Voltaire and after Darwin, the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died" (The Everlasting Man, Garden City, NY: Doubleday Image, 1925, p. 254).

          He went on to point out that when someone loses their faith, it isn't so much that they then believe in nothing, but rather, will believe anything.

          Will the Church die if there are mass desertions to "larger, friendlier" (i.e. permissive) faith communities? Not as long as there is at least one who says "Lord, to whom shall we go?"

          The Church is a gift from God. Cherish it as such. Cherish it as a loving mother, faithful to her spouse, our Lord Jesus Christ. Teaching her children how to please their Father, and avoid the dangers of a dark and dangerous world.

      Pax Christi, Pat

August 12, 1999       volume 10, no. 151


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