Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sin Never Justifies Schism

Here is a great response from Bryan Cross, former Calvinist, on Called to Communion.  He was responding to a commenter who declares that Catholicism can't possibly be the true church because of the sins of popes, priests, bishops and Catholics in general.  The commenter brought up exaggerated myths of the evil Church persecuting and killing "thousands and thousands" during the Inquisition as well as the priest sex abuse scandal. (there is no denying the fact that 4% of priests were involved in sexual abuse, but this number is no higher than that of clergy in other religious groups. The stain upon the Church for the next 500 years will not be the priest abusers but the bishops who hid them) In his response was one of the most eloquent arguments I have read to explain that the sinfulness of religious leaders never justifies schism.

"Perhaps we Catholic converts are not so ignorant of the sins of Catholic leaders as you imagine, not only sins committed in the centuries past, but even in our own lifetime. Perhaps we read about them in all their titillating and disgusting details, before we decided to become Catholic. Remember, we were Calvinists, not entirely unaware of our own depravity, and thus already inclined to think not only of fellow sinning Calvinists, but especially of sinning non-Calvinists, “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Perhaps, however, our becoming Catholic is not on account of ignorance of the sins of Catholics. Perhaps we have looked even deeper into history, and come to understand and believe that Christ founded only one Church, and gave none of us authority to start our own sect, and call it Christ’s Church. Perhaps we've recognized that even the one to whom Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom denied Him three times, and another to whom He gave authority to forgive and retain sins betrayed Him to death. Perhaps in this deeper history we have learned from St. Ignatius of Antioch, and come to understand that we are to do nothing apart from the bishop. Perhaps we came to understand through our study of the Donatist schism in the fourth century that sins by Catholic leaders, no matter how horrendous and disgraceful, never justify the sin of schism from the Church, or dispense us from our obligation to remain in communion with the bishop, praying for him and seeking to build up the Church under his authority. St. Chrysostom, himself a bishop, reportedly said that the floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. Perhaps that sensibility is part of the very Catholic faith deeper in history than the sins of the middle ages. Perhaps we recognize and expect that there will be, as our Lord promised, tares of great evil mixed in with the wheat. But, as orthodox Catholics such as St. Chrysostom have always known, that gives us no authority to form a schism from the Church, or as St. Irenaeus put it, “assemble in unauthorized meetings.” Two wrongs don’t make a right. Sins by bishops do not justify departing from the Church Christ founded, and starting our own sect. They are the occasion, as in the face of persecution or suffering or death, in which Christ calls us to take up our cross and die. Those who choose euthanasia in the face of suffering, or abortion in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, or apostasy in the case of persecution, or schism in the case of sinful bishops, are forsaking the cross, and disobeying our Lord.

The attempt to ‘restart Catholicism’ is just what Protestantism is, and in the American spirit of independent entrepreneurship and disregard for tradition and history, denominationalism and independent sects proliferated into the thousands in the US in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and have now been exported from the US all over the world. The founders of these denominations and sects were typically well intended, but they were mere men, and the sects they founded are all destined to decline and fade into history. Many already have gone extinct. The Church Christ founded, however, has remained these two thousand years, and will endure until Christ returns. Maybe therefore our becoming Catholic is not because we are ignorant of the number and magnitude of sins Catholic leaders have committed; maybe it is because we have discovered that how we respond to such sins, whether by schism from the Church or fidelity to her, is part of the test Christ has placed before us in this life, and part of the cross to which we as Christians are called. The Church is Christ’s family, and there are sinners in this family, but that doesn't justify leaving the family and starting a new one. When one member suffers, we all suffer, precisely because starting a new family is not an option.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan"


Anonymous Owen said...

O, where to begin.

Perhaps with Luther, yes that Luther so admonished "sin lustily" - yes, we know he went on to point out one should be "yet more lusty in faith" but still, he said it and by all accounts he took his own advice.

Next? I suppose the record of the past 500 years stand for itself as no or very, very few Protestant leaders have ever been caught out publicly in major sin.

It's tiresome, I just can't go on, though I'd love too. {wink}

October 10, 2012 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

-Pat V

October 10, 2012 6:58 PM  

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