I’ll try to answer your questions but as they are not doctrinal questions, you must remember that this is just my opinion about these things.
The good Catholic acts upon the beliefs (assumptions if you want to call them that) that he receives from the Church and he does this in accordance with his degree of intelligence, his knowledge of what the Church teaches, and the grace, natural & supernatural, that he’s been given. You seem to have met nothing but sorry or dissatisfied Catholics and abrupt priests with no understanding of what you want to find out. Any Catholic or Protestant either is defenseless before those who judge his religion by how well its members live up to it or are able to explain it. These things depend on too much entirely human elements. If you want to know what Catholic belief is you will have to study what the Church teaches in matters of faith and morals. And I feel that if you do, you will find that the doctrinal differences between Catholics and Protestants are a great deal more important than you think they are. I am not so naïve as to think such an investigation would make a Catholic of you; it might even make you a better Protestant; but as you say, whatever way God leads you will be good. You speak of the Eucharist as if it were not important, as if it could wait until you are better able to practice the two great commandments. God gave us the sacraments in order that we might better keep the two great commandments. You will learn about Catholic belief by studying the sacramental life of the Church. The center of this is the Eucharist
|Pope Benedict XVI saying Mass|
To get back to all the sorry Catholics. Sin is sin whether it is committed by Pope, bishops, priests, or lay people. The Pope goes to confession like the rest of us. I think of the Protestant churches as being composed of people who are good, and I don’t mean this ironically. Most of the Protestants I know are good, if narrow sometimes. But the Catholic Church is composed of those who accept what she teaches, whether they are good or bad, and these is a constant struggle through the help of the sacraments to be good. For instance when we commit sin, we receive the sacrament of penance (there is an obligation to receive it once a year but the recommendation is every three weeks). This doesn’t make it any easier to commit sin as some Protestants think; it makes it harder. The things we are obliged to do, such as hear Mass on Sunday, fast and abstain on the days appointed, etc. can become mechanical and merely habit. But it is better to be held to the Church by habit than not to be held at all. The Church is mighty realistic about human nature. Further it is not at all possible to tell what’s going on inside the person who appears to be going about his obligations mechanically. We don’t believe that grace is something you have to feel. The Catholic always distrusts his emotional reaction to the sacraments. Your friend is very far afield if she presumes to judge that most of the Catholics she knows go about their religion mechanically. That is something only God knows.
|O'Connor and two of her peacocks|
I hope this also clarifies the preferred terms of "practicing" verses "non-practicing" Catholics, as opposed to "orthodox" verses "cafeteria" Catholics. And many, many thanks to all my many, many Protestant friends for asking questions. I appreciate the dialogue. Deo gratias!