Saturday, February 26, 2005

An open post to Michael:
This is a response to Michael who commented on Fr. Tharp's post regarding abortion as a sacrament of death. I began making this response in the comment box, but it became so long and it deals with such a fundamental difference between Catholics and some other Christians that I decided it might serve some purpose as its own post. You may need to go to the original post and read the comment to understand some of the context of this post. Here goes:

Michael: Yours is a rather bizarre response to the issue of Fr. Tharp's post (abortion). Whence comes the apparent anger? But to some of your points... in all charity, you don't understand what the Sacraments are and what the Catholic Church, founded by and having received her faith from Christ, actually believes about them. Sacraments are not a replacement of God's grace, they are the special, though not the only, vehicle through which He has chosen for his grace to be communicated to us. You wrote:

"I find it so amazing that we could be talking about invisible grace two thousand years after grace covered us all. To me grace is very evident and seen in the lives of all of us that are broken, love Him and have personal relationships with Him."

Notice the equivocation you made there. You assume that because grace is invisible (which it is) that Catholics mean it is not "evident". That is a wrong assumption. Something can be invisible in and of itself, but its presence can be quite evident. Sounds like a blossoming angel discussion. Grace is a spiritual reality, not made up of matter, and so as a thing in itself it is invisible. However, invisible does NOT mean, not real or not evident. In fact, your own words recognize what Catholics mean by speaking of invisible grace: We see grace operative through the things of this world. We recognize grace by its effects (like a ripple in water). You yourself made mention of this by stating that grace is evident in so many lives that are broken. Have you ever seen the wind as a thing in and of itself? But you see its effects in swaying trees, clothes on a clothes line, or a windsock at the airport. Can you describe what grace looks like on its own without recourse to its outward signs seen in creation and in lives of faith? I don't think so. Your own language is sacramental, so please don't cast stones at us who take Jesus on his word that he is present and active in ordinary things of creation which he raises to a special dignity (Sacraments).

Furthermore, when you confront Catholicism, you need to recognize a very crucial basic principle: You impose on us what appears to be a "Bible only" appeal to authority. Stating that "sacrament" isn't in the Word, leads me to this conclusion about you. The problem is that a Bible only authority is your belief system and not ours. You can't therefore use that on us to denigrate what we believe. Catholics have always believed that God's Word comes to us in two interrelated ways (as two sides of one coin): Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. These are guarded and interpreted by the authority Jesus left to his Church, what we call the magisterium. Therefore, your appeal to "sacrament" not being in the Word, by which I presume you must mean Bible, does not create any holes whatsoever in a Catholic belief system. Furthermore, many words and ideas are not in the Bible, but I bet you wouldn't hesitate to believe or understand that they are real. But the real issue, taking on the core of your argument, is this: Is the Bible the only source of authority? Does the absence of the word "sacrament" in the Bible (the Word) mean it cannot be true? Michael, show me where the Bible says of itself that it is the ONLY source of authority. Show me where the Bible claims that ONLY those things that appear within its pages are real and to be believed. Furthermore, doesn't Jesus himself state that there are many other things he has to tell his disciples? See John 16:12. And so, since the disciples aren't ready for these many other things, what does Jesus say? He promises to send the Spirit of truth who will guide them into all truth (cf. John 16:13). That would be an awfully strange statement from the Master (the Word in flesh) were there no other truth to be guided into. What would have happened had the disciples, once Jesus ascended into Heaven, adopted a Bible only claim for authority? It seems to me such a claim would have run directly into conflict with the promised Spirit of truth, the very Spirit of God! Furthermore, how would the disciples, the early Church, have even made such a claim since the Bible wasn't compiled and finally put together for many years afterward?

I am glad you have read our blog and I hope these thoughts are helpful to you and others. May all Christians have a more evident, visible unity in the one faith established by Jesus and guarded by so many apostles and disciples!

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