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Friday, October 21, 2005

Wrong Sort of Apologetics

The Curt Jester has a dismaying story of episcopal spinelessness. With all respect to His Excellency, incidents like this do not emphesize the supreme Truth of the faith. Instead, they tend towards a watered down, wishy washy relativism in which one person's "faith tradition" is just as good as everybody else's. In general, this is what we call a Bad Thing. If allowed to progress too far, it becomes what the Church terms "scandal" and moves from being confusing and irritating to being evil. Not that I'm saying the bishop is being evil -- just that this may not have been the brightest idea in the world. I have searched, at some length, but without success, for the Canon that deals with inter-faith participation. In the 1917 code and before, such attending of a non-Catholic service was explicitly prohibited (even JFK followed that rule). There does not seem to be any comperable "allowing" rule, nor any section repealing the old law. This seeming lack of repealing raises questions in my mind, despite what the judicial vicar of Colorado Springs says, as to whether or not that provision is actually still in force. (See Dr. Edward Peters' site, although the Lord only remembers where, for what it takes for a canon law provision to lapse.) So right there we have the possibility that (Fr?) Peter Howard is actually technically and legally correct. Apart from that, there's the issue of whether or not it is actually advisable, apart from whether it is permissable, for Catholics to attend other denomination's services.

The answer, generally speaking, can only be "no." Now, if you have dedications OTHER than those to the Church, her Truth, and the reality of the sacraments, if you're overly concerned about what others think about you and consider this a controlling influence in determining you actions, then yes, maybe you shouldn't go pointing out that Protestantism is a heresy and Catholics shouldn't participate in it. However, if you have any concept of objective truth, it's very easy to see that one should not go playing around with lies. I don't care if "New Life Church," or Bob's House of Unitarianism, or any other place has a really great multimedia Jesus extraveganza every week. If the guy who gets up there and yacks says anything truthful, you can rest assured that it was entirely accidental. Furthermore, it is very true that such services can prove "confusing" to the faithful. Joe Catholic, especially in the US, doesn't usually have the theological and apologetic grounding in the faith to keep up point for point with Bob the Bible-quoting Protestant Minister. And even when he's openly bashing the Catholic Church, he's not going to say "ok, all you Catholics out there shut your ears, this is a particularly false teaching." Furthermore, evangelical services are the seedbed of anti-liturgicism (not that they don't do the same thing over and over again every week, they do -- they just 1) deny it, and 2) don't have any reasons behind what they do). People who willingly and habitually intermingle between the two are going to be the same people pushing to strip the True liturgy of its meaning, form, and nature, not to mention the people who don't understand the mass and therefore fail to gain spiritually from it, and who will eventually just stop coming.

The assistant principal at my high school, a man who was the salt of the earth named Br. Joel, once described all sin as a form of lie. If I teach something that is false, I am teaching a lie (the question of whether or not I am guilty of the sin of lying is another matter). If I willingly go to listen to and support someone who teaches lies (exempting people who seek out heretics in order to combat them and other such examples), I am both placing myself in the near occassion of sin by placing myself in a situation that could confuse my faith, and I am supporting the person who is telling the lies. Even if I don't give monetarily, my habitual presence in the audience gives encouragement and vindication to that person, and implicitly encourages others to do so as well. I have thus made myself complicit in the propogation of that lie and have very likely sinned in doing so. If the person I am going to listen to is a Protestant, you can bet your bottom dollar he is saying SOMETHING false. I am therefore at a complete loss as to see how a Catholic, barring one engaged in the study and observation of Protestantism or who possesses other serious reasons to do so, can habitually participate in non-Catholic services in good conscience. As a very important side note, what sort of message does doing so send about one's attitudes towards the mass and the Blessed Sacrament? If I need Bob the Bible-quoting Protestant Minister and his multimedia Jesus extraveganza to fulfill and round out my spiritual nourishment each week, I should take a step back and seriously consider my faith in, and my treatment of, the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

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