Friday, October 18, 2013

Public Err Ways

Our local radio station carries Christian religious programming on Sunday mornings. Although none of it is Catholic, I listen to it as I prepare to go to Eucharistic Adoration. At times, I am encouraged by how close we are as fellow Christians. At other times, I am saddened by our differences. While we all share a love for Christ, we have very different ways of showing it. Some of the preaching and singing has a very southern Baptist bend to the point where it can be difficult for us northerners to understand. The Lutheran program that follows would be most closely recognizable to a Catholic.

At the end of the Lutheran broadcast on a recent Sunday, they advertised a publication on the lost books of the Bible and why they were not included by the “early Church”. The commercial asked if we ever wondered why the Bible contains only those “66” books. I wondered if THEY ever wondered why the Bible does not contain all 73 books that the early Church actually included. By the way, that early Church to which they refer is the Catholic Church. Yes, I realize Lutherans may think they are the true early Church reformed by Martin Luther, but such cannot be the case.

Luther in effect denied the inerrant authority of the early Church to determine the canon of the Bible when he eliminated seven books. If the early Church erred in the inclusion of the Deuterocanonical books as we call them, doubt would be cast on the entire canon of Scripture. Who gave a German priest the right to overrule the God-given authority of the early Bishops of the Catholic Church? Only God had that authority to give and He did not give it to Luther. We know that from Matthew Chapter 16.

The Catholic Church gets very little respect these days. A restaurant in Chicago is offering a hamburger billed as a 10-ounce patty, chile aioli, braised goat shoulder, white cheddar cheese and two other special ingredients, "Red Wine Reduction (the blood of Christ) with Communion Wafer garnish (the body of Christ)." This description is according to Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass. The Catholic community is in an uproar over this and rightly so.

Yes, it is only bread, not consecrated, and the wine is just wine, but one must question the motive behind this offering. Certainly the unleavened bread offers no taste enhancement to the burger. If the purpose was to take a slap at the Catholic Church for shock value and publicity, they have certainly succeeded.

I am not so disturbed by the hamburger as I am by the online comments section following John Kass’s column. So many readers took this opportunity to express their disdain for the Catholic Church. A few of the comments: “They should worry about getting with the times and their criminal empire of pedophile priests not whats on a hamburger.” Another said, “Morons. This is one of the several reasons I abandoned the Catholic Church a long time ago, their inability to practice what they preach.” Many of the remarks were even more disgusting.

Sadly, this is the perception of the Church many harbor today. We have to acknowledge that we earned this reputation through serious sins of some of the Church hierarchy who will have to answer for their sins come the judgment. But, we also need to realize that many Church critics are simply seeking justification for their own shortcomings. The abuse scandal will not be forgotten, and therefore, Catholic evangelization will be more difficult.

A Chicago television newscast recently aired a report about the large number of Latinos leaving the Catholic Church for Protestant denominations. They say the church does not speak to their needs and concerns. They want to worship in their own way with livelier music and dancing. Is livelier music and dancing what we need to draw people to the Church? Of course not, but we do need a different approach to reach people who were never properly catechized.

In one his recent interviews, Pope Francis was quoted as saying, “The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the darkness with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost. The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. “

In the same interview, he was also quoted as saying, “The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Proclamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things. This is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus.” “A beautiful homily, a genuine sermon must begin with the first proclamation, with the proclamation of salvation.” “Then you have to do catechesis.”

The interview caused quite a stir in the media with many trying to fit the Pope’s words into their own agenda. From my perspective, Pope Francis is in no way trying to lessen the importance of any teaching of the Church. Rather, he recognizes the importance of first touching people’s hearts with the gospel message that will in turn create a desire for spiritual enrichment through catechesis and prayer. If people first see the Church as a disconnected regulatory agency, they will never feel drawn to the message of salvation. A love affair has to start with courtship.