I am a Roman Catholic priest, a "cradle Catholic" who grew up in an age of Catholic triumphalism. As children we were told to play only with Catholics. Since Notre Dame football team won almost all their games at that time, we believed that proved we were better. As I grew older, got involved in a parish, and eventually entered the seminary, I could see the Catholic Church was definitely not perfect. But still I believed we were the best. As I continued my studies for the priesthood and was ordained, it was obvious the local Catholic church had serious problems. After I received a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the sinfulness and demonic strongholds in our church became glaringly obvious. It seemed the Catholic Church had a monopoly on evil. However, by working with Protestant pastors, I was able to see that some of the evils in the Catholic Church were also in their denominations. This spiritual journey left me with a more realistic understanding of the Catholic Church.
We Catholics are in serious condition. Many of our people are "dry bones" (Ez 37). Many strongholds of the devil are entrenched in our churches. We are often lukewarm and confused due to our compromise with our pleasure-seeking, secular humanistic culture of death. Nonetheless, the Lord clearly, passionately, and unconditionally loves the Catholic Church. I would never advise anyone to leave the Catholic Church, and I thank God I'm a Catholic Christian.
Some critics maintain that the Catholic Church doesn't go by the Bible, and therefore, any Bible-believing Christian must leave it. But, in fact, the Catholic Church does go by the Bible, by an in-depth understanding of the Bible. The problem is that most Catholics are Biblically illiterate, although our faith is based on deep Biblical understanding. In the past, this gap was bridged by trusting in the pastor and church authorities, but this doesn't always work in our times. At this point, Catholics desperately need accelerated Bible study to bridge the gap and understand their faith. Otherwise, they will become confused and possibly lose their faith.
I believe the Catholic Church is the most Biblical of all churches. But you must know your Bible well to recognize this. The Catholic Church, unlike any other Christian group, has been able to teach and apply such Biblical teachings as the Eucharist, gospel poverty, and celibacy. It has strongly opposed divorce, abortion, and artificial birth control. All these Biblically-based teachings are extremely important because they deal with worship, life, death, sexuality, family, life-style, and ultimately the lordship of Jesus over our practical everyday lives. But the Catholic Church has its blind spots, especially in the area of Biblical finances. The Catholic Church will always be incomplete without learning from Protestants and other groups. Also, Protestants need to learn from Catholics. One part of Christ's body can't say to another part: "I do not need you" (1 Cor 12:21).
Even though the Catholic Church is very Biblical, many Catholic churches, especially in the United States and Europe, are not feeding their people spiritually. The question arises: "Should I leave the Catholic Church if I'm not being fed?" The answer is "No." The Church is not a restaurant but a relationship with brothers and sisters in Jesus. We shouldn't divorce our wives if they don't cook, so we shouldn't leave our pastors if they don't feed us. But, we don't have to starve to death. We can supplement our spiritual diet with Christian books, audio/video recordings, TV, radio, retreats, and special services. Then we can stay in our church and be a light and a leaven of renewal.
This also applies to a church that is stifling the Spirit. Why should those open to the Spirit move while others stay? "There is One greater in you than there is in the world" (1 Jn 4:4). Whether or not we are the pastor or among the official leaders of the Church is not the question. We have authority over evil spirits in Jesus' name. We can move mountains by the prayer of faith. If we can't claim Jesus' victory in the Catholic Church, we won't be able to claim it in the world, at work, or in the home. By faith let's hold our ground.
With a profound respect for Christians of all denominations, realizing the evils in the Catholic Church, and knowing personally how difficult it is to revive "dry bones," by faith I thank God that I'm a Catholic Christian. I thank Him for the rich spiritual treasures of the Catholic community, and I ask for the grace to be healed of "church hurts" and to love unconditionally the Catholic Church and all followers of Jesus Christ. Brothers and sisters, will you join me in this prayer?
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward Gratsch, November 24, 1997.
Imprimatur: Most Reverend Bishop Carl Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, November 26, 1997.
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com