No discussion with protestants about the Catholic Church would be complete without mentioning the successor of Saint Peter, the Pope.

20120903-083105.jpgDepending on who you talk to, he’s the antichrist, the devil, the ruler of the Whore of Babylon, or just a harmless old man and a representative of a misguided, apostate and archaic religion.

For many Protestant Christians, he’s the symbol of the corrupt and evil remnants of the Roman Empire, the embodiment of the wolves among the sheep. For catholics and, perhaps more importantly for non Christians, though, he is the symbol of Christian unity throughout the world.

Where’s That in the Bible?

Whatever non catholics tell you the pope is, the one thing they’ll all agree on is that he isn’t is the head of the Christian church. “Where in the Bible,” they’ll demand, “do you find the word ‘pope’?” Now, this may come as a shock to many cradle Catholics, but the answer is, you won’t find the word “pope” anywhere in the Bible. Unfortunately, Protestants have us on that one. Or do they?
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The Communion Controversy

20120903-073641.jpgOne thing that has been a common refrain in my conversations with fundamentalists is a criticism that the Catholic Church forbids communion or participation in the Eucharist by non Catholics. They seem to view it as a personal affront and a suggestion that the church does not view them as christian.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I would submit to you that it is the height of charity to deny communion to those who do not recognize it for what we as Catholics see it to be: the real flesh and blood of God’s Incarnate Son.

Saint Paul is very clear in saying that when we participate in communion without discerning the flesh and blood of Our Lord, we eat and drink judgement on ourselves (1Corinthians 11:29). The Catholic church takes the sacrament of Holy Communion extremely seriously. In all loving kindness, the church seeks to prevent fellow christians from what they believe to be calling judgement on themselves.

Respect for Beliefs

On another, more relatable note, consider this: in my earlier years, as a non practicing catholic, I would attend church with my wife at her independent bible church. I knew that they did not consider my catholic baptism to be valid. Out of respect for them, and their beliefs, I declined to receive communion there. At the time, I believed I was a baptized Christian even thought they did not, and I believed that I was entitled to receive communion. However, because I respected the fact that they were entitled to their beliefs, and because I knew it was important to them, I refrained. The question arises, then, why would one desire to receive communion at a Catholic church to begin with if they do not believe the same things about it?
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20120902-225304.jpgSo many non Catholics, especially fundamentalists and “Bible Christians,” point to Matthew 6:7, in which Jesus condemns vain and repetitious prayer, to show yet another area in which the Catholic Church violates what seems to be a crystal clear teaching.

Catholic practices and prayers are full of repetition. The Lord’s Prayer, the Glory Be, Grace Before Meals, all of these are memorized and repetitious. Of course, that’s just scratching the surface for us as Catholics. There’s the Divine Office, novenas, and of course the Rosary and Hail Marys. These can easily be seen by the outsider or the uninformed as vain and repetitious.

For Protestants who are contemplating Catholicism, and even for those who have chosen to take the leap, this can be a tremendous obstacle to overcome. Fundamentalist Christians have had it ingrained into their minds that Matthew 6:7 forbids repetitive prayers. This is yet again an unfortunate fallacy and a result of reading scripture out of context. Too often, we read the Bible on our own without an appreciation for the time and the culture in which they were written.
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Striking fear in the hearts of Protestants and “bible-believing” Christians everywhere, this young teenage virgin may be the single hardest issue for non catholics to wrap their brains around.

20120902-220337.jpgIt’s understandable, to a degree, why people who don’t know any better might have misgivings about the ways Catholics venerate the Mother of God. What’s disappointing is that most non Catholics don’t ever bother to ask “why?” Instead, they make assumptions based on their own uninformed observations or, worse yet, on other people’s misguided judgements.

But what’s that you say? Mary’s not the mother of God? Of course not! She’s just some peasant girl who God used for His own purpose. It could have been anybody, right? There’s nothing at all special about Mary! Right?
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Scripture Alone?

Every Protestant and fundamentalist Christian group outside of the Orthodox, Oriental and Catholic Churches subscribe to the belief that Holy Scripture is the sole arbiter for truth and the only authority on which teaching and doctrine can be based.

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At first blush, this makes perfect sense. Just as governments have laws and companies have policies which we must follow and for which we will be held accountable, certainly Christ’s church would have a “rule book” that we can all turn to for guidance and instruction. Obviously, there is no need for any other authority than the Bible, right?
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