- Published on Monday, 06 August 2012 06:24
- Written by John Draper
- Hits: 1208
The Catholic Church is by far the biggest single Church in the world. That's not to say that all Catholics believe all they are supposed to but it does raise the question as to why Catholic and not say, Baptist?
There are two fundamental reasons: It appeals intellectually and, over the years, it has appealed more emotionally. There is plenty of competition - other Christian religions have been doing a good job on the emotional appeal (think Pentecostal, Evangelist etc.) and Islam has been doing well with their mysticism and infiltration into political institutions. Yet Catholics cling to their faith. Why?
My personal inclination is to apply reason and evidence to any explanations about the unknown. The Christian religion is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ and the only real documentation of these is the bible. The trouble is that this is riddled with contradictions and requires extensive interpretation. This is a show stopper to anyone with a logical mind - apart from me that would include my father, Conrad Black and a long list of intelligent rational Catholics (yes, there are quite a few). The Catholic Church long ago realised that this was a problem and solved the problem quite simply. When I was taught Catholicism at the Catholic school I went to, the teachers explained that there were actually two sources of dogma/theology: The Bible and Tradition. Tradition refers to the Church as an institution which has additional info and also interprets the bible.
The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say:
Is all revealed truth consigned to Holy Scripture? Or can it, must it, be admitted that Christ gave to His Apostles to be transmitted to His Church, that the Apostles received either from the very lips of Jesus or from inspiration or Revelation, Divine instructions which they transmitted to the Church and which were not committed to the inspired writings? Must it be admitted that Christ instituted His Church as the official and authentic organ to transmit and explain in virtue of Divine authority the Revelation made to men? The Protestant principle is: The Bible and nothing but the Bible; the Bible, according to them, is the sole theological source; there are no revealed truths save the truths contained in the Bible; according to them the Bible is the sole rule of faith: by it and by it alone should all dogmatic questions be solved; it is the only binding authority. Catholics, on the other hand, hold that there may be, that there is in fact, and that there must of necessity be certain revealed truths apart from those contained in the Bible; they hold furthermore that Jesus Christ has established in fact, and that to adapt the means to the end He should have established, a living organ as much to transmit Scripture and written Revelation as to place revealed truth within reach of everyone always and everywhere.
So the Church will provide Catholics with an interpretation of the Bible and with any additional stuff needed to make sense of the religion. One by-product is that Catholics will not be put off by any criticism of the bible; errors and contradictions do not matter. Even some non-Catholics have a similar faith that their favourite pastor will be able to explain away errors. So reading the bible or critiquing it will not make a Catholic lose his faith. It takes deeper thinking and questioning than that for a Catholic to lose his faith. In my case, if ever I suddenly decided (irrationally) that after all, God does exist, then I would become Catholic and not some other religion. Of all the Religions, to me, Catholics have the most rational case for being THE Church. It's a pity it's based on two false premises: 1) that God exists and 2) that Jesus is/was God (see the other 1400+ articles on this site for discussions on this!)
The second reason that the Catholic Church has been so dominant is that it has neat ceremony and liturgy. These include:
- The Eucharist - you can eat the spiritual body of Jesus. You can't get closer to God than that!
- There is a ceremonial forgiveness of sin in confession.
- The mass is a regular performing of the miracle of the Eucharist. Daily miracles! How cool is that!
- Special days include special ceremonies - e.g. Good Friday's Stations of the Cross; ash on your forehead on Ash Wednesday.
- Churches include visual reminders with statues, windows and paintings
- Loyalty is reinforced with a special Baptism sacrament, First communion, Confirmation, a mass at your wedding and forgiveness of all sins on your deathbed with Extreme Unction (Last Rites).
You could also include a "high mass" that features incense and singing all the words in Gregorian Chant. Unfortunately most priests are bad singers and high mass is quite long and not a good feature. The regular mass is also usually long enough so music and choirs have also not been a major feature.
So if you must belong to a Church - being Catholic makes more sense and has more appeal.