Contra “The Dead Spirituality” of The Catholic Church: Against the Caricature That The Church is Self-Righteous and Glorifies itself, Meanwhile Christ Taught Self-Denial   1 comment

1. Introduction

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

As a child coming of age into young adult years, my Reversion to Catholicism is one marked by an initial hatred for The Catholic Church as I understood it. I was the poster child of Progressive Modernist thought who yet embodied a fierce New Age Protestantism about things pertaining to The Church and the surrounding cultural and spiritual developments that I found myself growing up around in. This series is written to rebuke the writings of my Youth, a sort of self-imposed Penance to atone for my own personal ignorance. The writings of my youth are held on the internet at the Yahoo! Voices website, there are 4 Articles written between July to November 2007, just after my graduation from High School. It should be noted that the rebuke is thematically addressed rather than chronologically answered.

The First Article written in July 2007 was titled, “Christianity Vs. True Christianity: A Problem with the Church?” This article embodied perfectly my Anti-Catholic view influenced by Progressive Modernism, Protestant propaganda yet New Age influences at the time. The Second Article written in August 2007 was title, “Church of Christ: The Church is Not the Real Thing!” This article embodied my confusion and the varieties of cultural propaganda set against the Church, this article sounds most like what I hear today, and that I have come to most fight against today. The Third Article was written in the same month and was titled, “Is the Bible Really Full and Complete?” This article was my argument that the Bible was incomplete and that since it has been left to many revisions it is no longer a trustworthy book, this attack the notion that The Bible was the Complete and Final Word of God. The Fourth and Final Article was written in November 2007 and was titled, “My Road to Christian Gnosticism” Here it is showcased for all to see my love of Heterodoxy and lack of understanding of Orthodoxy, of course in celebrating fighting against the superstitious ignorance of the Church I now confess that I was the one being superstitious and ignorant.



II. My Argument Against My Past Self

When I was a rebellious teen, I found myself hating the exclusivism of Christianity, in particular what The Church taught about itself namely: Ex Cathedra (Papal Infallibility) and Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (Outside The Church There Is No Salvation). From these 2 Teachings I saw the Church as Self-Righteous and Self-Glorifying, which I saw as inconsistent with Christ’s Teaching of Self-Denial. In this article I want to talk about these 2 Teachings and what Christ means by Self-Denial, it is my hope that the reader will see a more liberating and welcoming perspective on the Christ and His Church.

On Ex Cathedra

As a rebellious teenager, I had a passive aggressive problem with authority, informed for the most part by a culture that loved being Heterodox and non-conformist. So I out of bias, I attacked any form authority seeing that as threatening the dialog of Heterodoxy and the Spirit of Non-Conformity, an attempt by a Few to Rein in Control on a given subject in society. So one can imagine how rebellious I was toward the Catholic Dogma of Ex Cathedra, or Papal Infallibility. It was only as I got older that I was able to draw the line between the inordinate wielding of Power and the responsible use of Authority. At the heart of that lesson, even the Catholic Church opposes Power that is, power held for power’s sake is exactly what the Church condemns seeing that as violation of Christian Teaching; however the Catholic Church recognizes that there is a need for Authority in this world of ours, that we should heed what a person in authority has to say.

Rebellious people will not like hearing such a statement, I know, but consider you trust your doctor and you listen to his advice or else consequences will naturally spring from not obeying them, consider also that maybe you obey-listen to your financial advisor since he probably knows what is going on in the financial world and you obey-listen to them because consequences will naturally spring from them if you do not listen to him. Now why is this? Because, their out to hold on to Power for Powers sake? No, because they’ve been trained, instructed, educated, and hopefully have a passion for that field they find themselves in.

Now consider The Church, when I was a kid I found myself in debates against Atheism and one of the debate points that I could never answer was, “I don’t believe in the Christian God because you have so many different groups each claiming to be right and all the others wrong.” This Atheist, as far as this observation is concerned was intellectually honest, but if he has a problem with the 30,000 differing Denominations and so-called “Non-Denominations” then he should have looked 2 the only 2 remaining options the first being The Catholic Church and the second being The Eastern Orthodox Churches. At the end of the day though, even the Eastern Orthodox Churches are still somewhat Protestant in that, even they reject the teaching authority of the Roman Magisterium, I would argue for powers sake then defending their own authority however.

To Be Fair, Evangelicals, Baptists, Methodists, etc… Do not call themselves Protestants, however the Spirit of Protestantism is prevalent in them, for they all would reject The Magisterium of the Church.

Truly, if one is a Christian and they find themselves admitting that this Atheist I was speaking of earlier is right, then they have become aware of the fact that they have a choice: (1) Continue trying to decide which 1 of the 30,000 Protestant “denominations” are right, (2) Become an atheist themselves, (3) Leave Christianity and Go to the vaguely spiritual realm or go to another religion, or (4) Agree that The Church holds Teaching Authority for those who call Jesus Christ the Son of God.

Personally, I see Option #1 as a waste of time and therefore, completely counter-productive. When I was a kid who called himself, “Spiritual but Not Religious” I never really could commit to one religious teaching, I was lost in a sea of spirituality with no dry ground from which to build anything upon. Even when I built a Hybrid out of everything it never really held for long and I was inundated by that sea of spirituality. The same goes in this circumstance, if you try to build a hybrid, you will only be propagating that same complaint the Atheist has, and justifying him. Being unable to commit in an intellectually honest way, will only lead to frustration and the inability to produce anything worthwhile. So Option #1 really does not stand and we would be dishonest with ourselves and others if we tried to live Option #1 out.

Personally, I see Option #2 as counter-productive especially if one understands and believes in a Spiritual realm and what especially by what a Christian means by God. To become an atheist, I find to be intellectually dishonest or at least intellectually lazy, because that only communicates a sense of despair and giving up and I have seen the fruits of despair both in my life and in the lives of others. Therefore, Option #2 is a waste of time, because it only leads one to waste time on trivial pursuit and superficial living.

Personally, I see Option #3 as a mix between Option #1 and #2, you choose to believe in God however, you give up on understanding what the particular Faith you were born into understands to be God and how we are to live in light of the Revelations God has given us. When I was a teenager I was enmeshed in Option #3 and I see Option #3 as the premier choice of most people in the wider culture today. Because it became so popular in a culture that I grew to have more disregard for, and because of my own skepticism, I began to wonder if this was an intellectually honest position to hold and as I stated in Option #1 I found it not to be. Granted, this position is not Intellectually Lazy, for it does encourage one to go out into the wider culture and to understand other wisdom traditions, however it encourages one to give oneself to multiplicity and thus completely eviscerating 2 Traits that anyone needs while undertaking Spiritual Discipline, namely Focus and Dedication.

The only remaining Option is Option #4, this is the path I have chosen after a long time trying to deny it. I being one who claims Christ to be The Son of the Living God, can’t in Honesty and Conscience take up any other option but to declare a need for a Tradition that Christ proclaimed and that followed up to the present day for the Healing and Salvation of Souls as well as to War against The Evil and Fallen World, and this Tradition is guided by the 2 Natures of an Intelligent Instructive Evangelizing Mission and Hierarchical Authority via The Magisterium of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. For in Hierarchy a Tradition is defended and through an Intelligent Instructive Evangelization the Tradition is Understood and Lived.

This is why I can no longer oppose and in fact have become a staunch supporter of Ex Cathedra, because it is the sure fire defense against those Heresies that would masquerade as the Tradition. People may say the Pope Will shutdown discussion in favor for what he believes and he might just do that, but not out Power for Power’s Sake rather because through His Authority he can prevent us from getting hung up on an issue taking away from the mission of the Church: The Healing and Salvation of Souls as well as to War against The Evil and Fallen World.

On Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

Being a rebellious teenager much informed by the Politically Correct Culture around us, I equally got offended by such exclusive statements as, “Outside the Church There Is No Salvation” from this stems both the Atheistic and New Age claims about religion, “If you don’t adhere to our beliefs you’re going to hell!” To be sure, I believed this, I believed that “zealously religious people” wanted to be vindicated for their zealous upholding of their beliefs in this life and couldn’t wait to see people burning in hell, in the final smug humor of, “I told you so…” However, this phrase is actually more liberating than at first it sounds.

The point to this teaching is that Christ and His Church are intertwined, you can’t have one without the other, and to try to have one without the other is incomplete. Truly the argument I gave over Ex Cathedra above follows into Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, for if one grants that being lost in a sea of spirituality and different religions (whether they be the multitude of contradicting Christian denominations or something totally Non-Christian) or choosing to become an atheist is fundamentally counterproductive then one can only grant that there is a living yet ancient teaching authority on spiritual matters established by Christ and that Authority rest in the Magisterium of the Church. In allowing this to happen, then one fundamentally admits that outside of Church Teaching one cannot really receive the highest Spiritual Consolation of Salvation by way of Divinization.

Often times I hear people saying, “Well what if a person was ignorant then I guess that person will burn in Hell.” To which point, I say to the contrary, Invincible and Inculpable Ignorance will not send a person to hell rather so long as they, “zealously keeping the natural law and its precepts engraved in the hearts of all by God, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, by the operating power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life.” This is in keeping with Church Teaching. Now if a person were to be willingly ignorant or intentionally seeks to avoid hearing the Catholic message, so as to safeguard such a reception of eternal life, then it would seem that such Grace would be canceled out, since the Grace stems from the very thing they seek to avoid.

It should be known also that, The Church if it is truly to call itself the Mystical Body, ought to have an invisible side to it, therefore, those who are not visibly participating in the Church may be guided by a certain Grace that allows them to attain Salvation, enlightening them in such a way so as to aid in their spiritual and material development. Again, however if someone were to refuse the source of this Grace which operates through the Church, it would seem that it would nullify that Grace given to them prior to their encounter with the Church. Settling for less would be detrimental for ones spiritual development, the same way that a farmer in choosing to settle for less water for a large farm would be harmful for his crop, it would be completely irrational. Therefore, let us see Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus not as a threat but as an invitation to deepen what we have already been given, and to make our contribution to it.

On Christian Self-Denial

When I was kid, I was terrified of a Judgmental Godhead, especially when it came to the concept of Self-Denial, it was so poorly communicated to me that I was locked up in Fear of Punishment, “if I strayed off the Path” but the problem here is the Path was never defined and this Fear of Punishment needed discernment. When I was a teenager, I broke free of my own concepts of “self-denial” and embraced the concepts of “self-improvement” and “self-fulfillment” and “self-gratification.” So having now comeback to the Concept of Self-Denial and the seeming Self-Glorification of the Church, I would say actually in light of coming back that the Church really does deny itself.

How so? The Church is not focused on itself, its mission is not like a worldly corporation wherein there is a profit margin that needs to be made at the end of the day, I wrote about this earlier. If the Church didn’t practice Self-Denial then it would have embraced every cultural fad, popular opinion, and mimicked the world, but it does not do that, it holds by its word and its mission and we know this to be true:

Right now it’s popular to accept homosexual unions and abortion, the Church (save the troublesome Radical Progressive crowd) however stands squarely against these practices. Right now it’s popular to celebrate excessive hedonism and living in an over-sexualized culture, yet the Church reminds us of what true Human Sexuality is about and celebrates the Virtue of Temperance. Right now it’s popular to be religiously unreligious, dogmatically un-dogmatic, and devoutly un-devout, yet the Church is there fighting against Atheism, New Ageism, and Popular Misconceptions.

If the Church was so Self-Glorifying it would have embraced these popular things in order to celebrate how right they are (of course the Church would have been debunked long ago after the ending of the first popular fad it encountered or latter down the line as people would have gotten tired of forgiving it so many times, after all the Virtue to Forgive Ones Enemies itself would be completely debunked as well). Another example, back in the previous turn of the century Eugenics was a popular practice and it found itself popularly embraced in Nazi Germany yet the Church never faltered on the Catholic Pro-Life stance for this very reason. It did not merely demand a blind Pro-Life stance from its members rather it intelligently articulated such a defense for Life. The Church has denied itself every opportunity to be part of the popular crowd, to be part of the unthinking mass mind, and to blend in and be part of the cool kids. Only lately through that radical progressive crowd found in the Church do we see the beginnings of clergymen trying to appeal to the popular and passing fancies of the culture.

Can we see now the Self-Denial of the Church? The Church is Selfless, a sign that Christ is present here. The members of the mystical body give their time, energy, talents and resources to it, to advance its mission in the world. That mission again: (1) To Proclaim The Gospel of Christ for the Salvation of Souls, (2) To care for the Suffering and Oppressed, and (3) To War Against The Adversary and The Fallen World over which he dominates. Have there been abuses? Sure, but those abuses do not nullify The Church because those who committed the abuses nullified themselves from what The Church does, hence the need for Reconciliation. To say it nullifies the Church makes as much sense as saying, “in order to prevent murder we have to kill everyone!”

Christian Self-Denial then is the Courage to deny yourself from conforming to the world whether intellectually, bodily, psychologically, morally, or spiritually. It is a kind of virtue, and I would say (especially in these times) it is a sub-virtue rooted in the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude. However, this Virtue I think in part is also connected to the Supernatural Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love that only Grace could give. For no one, and certainly the Spirit of a Massive and Longstanding Organization/Organism such as the Church, would be able to be Fortuitous enough to refuse conformity to every popular fad that it has seen roughly over 2000 years unless it had Trusted in something beyond itself, unless it had Hope in something beyond itself, and certainly unless it had Loved something beyond itself and for that something (or someone) to imbue it with The Grace to withstand the temptation to conform. Hence how it can call itself infallible and how no salvation can come from anything outside of itself.


One response to “Contra “The Dead Spirituality” of The Catholic Church: Against the Caricature That The Church is Self-Righteous and Glorifies itself, Meanwhile Christ Taught Self-Denial

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  1. Pingback: Contra “The Dead Spirituality” of The Catholic Church: Against the Caricature That Priestly Vestments Are of the Pharisees Not of Christ « Reality and Illusions

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