Saturday, April 16, 2011

Part 3 of My Review of "Holy Ground"

In the 4th Chapter, Mr. Castaldo tells of his experience while working for a fundraising company that was utilized by a Catholic diocese in Florida. He was at a black-tie affair on a Friday during Lent when it was realized too late that the menu was steak. The presiding bishop gave a dispensation to the faithful so that that could eat meat without violating the Friday abstinence . Mr. Castaldo then says that he thinks the old guy next to him thought "if he had choked on his steak and died apart from the bishop's blessing, he would have been roasted."
Mr. Castaldo concludes with this: "From a Evangelical point of view, clerical authority of this kind stretches incredulity to the breaking point. Because salvation is understood to be by grace alone, our jaws drop and we look with wonder at our Catholic friends."
Why does he wonder at Catholic friends? We too believe in salvation by grace alone. After all, it is in the scripture, "For by grace are you saved through faith, it is the gift of God not of works.."
There has never been a dispute that we are saved by grace. The Council of Trent reinforced this over and over. The dispute lies in the fact that Catholics do not believe we are saved by faith alone. (We believe in the obedience of faith, meaning not just a mental assent, but an active faith. Please read this on Catholic justification.)
To his credit he ends the section with a correct conclusion that church authority "is the fulcrum" which separates Catholics from Evangelicals. Yes, we believe Christ started the Catholic Church and gave the apostles and successors the authority to bind and loose and forgive sins and yes, even give a dispensation to allow meat on Friday during Lent, when an un-planned-for snafu occurs. The reality is that, if they did eat the meat, it would not have been a mortal sin since there was not full knowledge. The participants didn't go to this meal thinking they were purposely going to eat steak and contradict Church teaching. I suspect they went knowing they would have dinner with their beloved bishop and promise to donate significant amounts of money to the bishop's appeal. (most of which is used to feed and house the poor, and support seminarians, unwed mothers). When the participants saw the steak dinner, perhaps they were very dismayed because they realized they didn't want to disobey the Church and ultimately Christ. Why can't we think the best of them, instead of assuming the worst?

Earlier Mr. Castaldo said "many Catholics eat meat on Friday during Lent, but they don't usually do it when dining with the bishop and clergy." Hoping this is not a cheap shot by our author I will assume it is an innocent mis-characterization of Catholic practice based on his personal observations of nominal Catholics. The circle of friends my wife and I associate with in the Catholic Church don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent and usually other Fridays as well. We take our faith very seriously and wish to please Jesus by giving up a simple pleasure on one day a week as we remember the passion and death of the One who gave up everything for us. The Church encourages us to view each Friday, Saturday and Sunday as "mini" commemorations of his passion, death and resurrection every week. I remember as an evangelical I focused on the Passion story only once a year. Because the Church asks this of me and sets in place a "rule" regarding abstinence does not prove that we have a "works vs. grace" mentality. The goal of the Church is to remind the faithful of Christ's sacrifice for them once a week (by abstaining from meat). I think that's a good thing and this anecdote of a bishop's dispensation over a Lenten Friday meal doesn't support Mr. Castaldo conclusion that Catholicism doesn't hold to salvation by grace.

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