Today I was informed by an old co-worker of mine, via FB post, that Catholics worship idols and don’t count as Christians.
Now, I’ve been told both these things, a lot, but I think when you put up something that abrasive in a public forum, you’re asking for Dominican Emily to come out. Dominican Emily just can’t let that stuff go.
The conversation with some of his other friends covered what I consider the greatest hits of Catholic mythology. Here are a couple:
- We worship Mary
- We believe we can “earn” heaven via works on some check list
- We worship saints, too!
- Oh, and we’re not Christians.
Almost all Christians recite the same creed. OK guys? We say the Nicene creed at Mass. Guess what? Most mainline Christians do too! A Christian is:
Hey, guess what? Catholics believe all that. We believe that Jesus Christ is God. We believe in what he taught. We all believe in the same freaking baptism, folks! (Now I realize some more “non-denominational” guys don’t believe what we believe. OK, fine. But if you are Christian and you convert to Catholicism, we don’t “re-baptize” you, unless you’ve never been baptized, and then, it’s not a re-baptism.)
This is the Nicene Creed. (It’s called the Nicene creed because it dates from 325 AD and the Council of Nicea.) Now, the Church recently changed some of the words so we have fun things like “consubstantial” in there that other Christians might not have, but we believe all those things. Thus, we are Christians.
And not only are we Christians, we are the largest single Christian denomination in the world. So please, don’t embarrass yourself and say we’re not Christians. OK? Because it’s offensive, and it’s wrong.
Point two: We don’t worship “idols”, or statues of Mary or Saints. We honor them.
Worship, to a Catholic, isn’t just prayer. It’s Mass. We do not offer Mass to Mary or St. Therese or St. Whoever. Mass is offered as our liturgy, the “work of the people”, and it is our communal worship of God. Mary is greatly honored. The saints are honored. We ask for their intercession in the same way that we ask people on Earth to pray for us. Since we believe in the communion of saints, which is:
We believe that those in heaven can intercede for us here on earth. No, they are not omnipotent, because they are not God. We ask them to pray for us. We keep pictures (statues, art, relics, whatever) of them in our homes and churches so that we can remember their lives and witness, and to ask them for help. It’s the same way we keep crucifixes around–to remember Christ’s death for our sins. Why do you keep pictures of your family around? They’re not idols. They’re photos to help you remember loved ones and cherished times. It’s the same principle.
As for earning salvation, this is the old Reformation debate of sole fide: by faith alone. Catholics don’t believe in that. The Epistle of James gives excellent Biblical foundation for this; he says that even the devils believe that Jesus is Lord, and much good it does them. Faith leads, naturally, to the outpouring of works, which just means how you live your life. Grace and salvation isn’t a one time deal. It’s an ongoing process, which is why Saint Paul says we “hope” in our salvation, and that we work our our salvation with fear and trembling.
Jesus in his ministry gave us guidelines. What is the greatest commandment? To love the Lord Our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. That means WORKS, guys. The Good Samaritan? He had works! The Prodigal Son? Works again! He was sorry, he came back and asked for forgiveness. Pick a parable. Faith and grace are not these one time things. And Catholics have tons of outlets for grace, in our sacraments!
No, you can’t “earn” salvation. But the Catholic idea is that your faith impacts how you live. Thus, if you believe in God and Jesus Christ and what He said, then you’re going to do or not do things. At least, that’s the idea. Do we always live up to it? Heck no. Ghandi famously said that if all Christians were truly Christian, there’d be no Hindus in India. We screw up, but we keep on trying. (“Be ye perfect as your father in Heaven is perfect”, and all that.) That’s why we have confession (hey, more grace!): to wipe the slate, to admit our sins, and to try again.
Please, my Protestant readers (or really, whoever else): Stop saying these things, OK? Because they are just wrong. You don’t have to agree with what we do. But we ARE Christians, we don’t worship a golden calf, and we don’t think we can get into Heaven via a heavenly checklist. OK?