What the Roman Catholic Church Can Learn From Fundamentalists

First, a disclaimer: I am not a Roman Catholic, I have never been a Roman catholic, nor do I ever foresee myself joining the Roman Catholic Church. I live in an area of the United states that is heavily influenced by fundamentalism and evangelicalism, with very few Roman Catholics. My only exposure to the RCC is through the internet, various pro-life groups, and my childhood spent in a Catholic majority South American nation.

While I am a Reformation Protestant, I believe the truth of the Scriptures that says all who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved. It makes as much sense to me to ask ‘Are Catholics saved?’ as to ask ‘Are Baptists saved?’. Those who believe in the truth of the Gospel are Christians, regardless of what tradition they are a part of. Whether Roman Catholics would extend the same to me is immaterial, it is God who judges, not me.

I say all of that to say this: I am no expert in the theology, liturgy, or history of the Roman Catholic Church. But what I am an expert in is the beliefs of American fundamentalists, as I have lived among them for most of my life. And I believe they have something to teach the Roman Catholic Church.

A few months ago, I wrote a post on Pat Robertson’s comments on the Hati earthquake. In that post, I pointed out that when there is a media outrage over something Robertson says, it does not convince his followers that he’s done anything wrong, rather it only gives them more proof of the world’s hate of Christians. When the world is angry at a fundamentalist’s actions, it serves as a proof of God’s blessing. (To head off any arguments, I think this is something most people do unconsciously; if your “enemy” is against something, it must be right. Let’s call it the Sarah Palin Law.)

Right now, the same thing is happening with the RCC. Much of the Western world is enraged over accusations of child molestation by Catholic priests, and many in Catholic leadership are reacting the same way fundamentalists do: insisting the problem lies with the accusers and not the priests, or the very institution itself. There is no sin, they say, it’s just an attack by Satan against the body of Christ (although it’s from 2003, the response is still pertinent).

While you can’t check the spiritual condition of everyone who is involved in accusing, reporting, and discussing the issue, nothing is gained by playing this game. Sure, accusations of paedophilia are sensational and will sell newspapers, and sure, there are a lot of people who want to see the Roman Catholic Church disappear, but unless your only concern is to keep your people energized, these kinds of responses do nothing. You see, there are a lot of us that don’t necessarily want the RCC to fall off the face of the earth, but want to see their leadership take responsibility for what has been going on for years, because, and this might come as a surprise, we find it reprehensible that someone in spiritual leadership could take advantage of children and then have the whole matter covered up so as to preserve the integrity of the institution.

Unless the Roman Catholic Church wants to further marginalize itself as fundamentalists have done, they should learn an important lesson here. You lose all moral authority to speak out on issues such as abortion, capital punishment, and war when you can’t keep your own house in order. The world will not listen to your message while it is afraid of what you are doing to children. There are two paths, please don’t take the one pioneered by Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

Update: Looks like the pope read this post, went back in time, and followed my advice. They have a time machine at the Vatican, don’t they?


2 thoughts on “What the Roman Catholic Church Can Learn From Fundamentalists

  1. As to Catholics being Christians (saved) this is what I wrote in 2008: http://themasterstable.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/roman-catholic-christians/

    The current problem in the RCC is all the attention that priests are getting regarding their, uh, misbehavior. It seems that sexual desire is hardwired into our biology, no matter what vows one makes. So in light of current “issues” why not allow priests to marry? That would solve a lot of problems right? Like many things in life, it’s just not that easy.

    In the Catholic tradition, there are three equally valid sources of authority: the Bible, the Pope, and Church tradition. There was a time when men were burned at the stake for insisting otherwise. For the past thousand years or so, priests have been forbidden to marry. I honestly don’t know what the Catholic take on this issue is, but a good Protestant world history teacher would point out that during the Middle Ages, the Church was loosing land and money each time a priest got divorced. The giant RCC machine has no reverse gear. The current Pope cannot simply declare a previous decision – and a millennium of church tradition based on it – wrong. Even if the church wishes they could, there’s no course correction they can make here.

  2. This is of interest to me because I grew up in the Catholic church.

    On the issue of Catholics being “saved”, my views on this one have evolved over time. When I first came over to the evangelical side of the fence, I was very reluctant to acknowledge the possibility of Catholics being “saved”. Nowadays I am significantly more generous; one does not necessarily need to believe in justification by faith in order to be justified by faith (though it does make life a whole lot nicer).

    On the priestly sex abuse thing: This is an unfortunate development. It definitely indicates that the whole doctrine and practice of priestly celibacy ought to be called into question and subjected to a healthy dialogue; unfortunately there is very little realistic chance of that happening, due to that whole infallibility thing.

    Regardless of how this all plays out, the truth will win out in the end and the church of Christ shall prevail–one way or another.

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