Saturday, April 16, 2011

Part 4 Review of "Holy Ground"

In Chapter 4, Mr. Castaldo describes ex-Catholics as feeling that an "array of rules" was imposed on them when asked about how they previously related to God. This again makes my point that he was interviewing nominal Catholics who did not access the grace available to them. These folks obviously did not have a personal relationship with Christ and thus it seemed like an authoritarian structure was imposed on them. This phenomenon can be found in all major religions and described by those who are not devout adherents of that particular religion. I am not sure what this proves regarding how Catholics relate to God. Should the reader make the assumption that this is how most, some, not all, or few Catholics relate to God? He makes it sound like these folks ran screaming from the Church looking for a breath of fresh air asking Jesus to free them from the bondage the Church had laid on them. No. It is more probable that these ex-Catholics, though baptized, did not have a living faith and were in need of conversion(as we all are). When they did have a conversion experience, thanks be to God, they unfortunately looked back at their nominal Catholic faith which was miserable to them and made the conclusion that Catholicism is a bunch of rules, not a relationship.
The author then goes on to describe a bad experience a person had in the confessional with a crabby priest and how that person vowed never to go back again. He says he heard this same story over and over again and it starts to form a "composite picture."
Would Mr. Castaldo have formed a different "composite picture" if he interviewed Catholics who go to confession on a regular basis? From personal experience and the Catholics I know, there is a great desire to make use of this sacrament and we all eventually find a confessor that we are comfortable with and who understands us. This is not "rules oriented experience" but the practical working out of Christ's power given to his disciples to forgive sins. When we go to confession, we believe we are "whispering in the ear of God," not man, and thus confession becomes a very intimate and personal encounter with our savior and healer.

As an aside, I would like to point out that Catholics are not the only ones accused of having "an array of rules." As a former devout evangelical protestant teenager, I used to go to a week-long seminar called Bill Gothard's Institute of Basic Youth Conflicts in the mid 1970's. This was an extremely cult-like teaching series by a fundamentalist who created more rules (Gothard called them 'principles') than one would ever encounter in Catholicism. The end result of attending several BYC's was the creation of a small band of legalistic "automaton" Christians who were guilt-ridden, judgmental and lacking the joy and freedom promised in the gospel. The leader of our fellowship used the "principles" of Basic Youth Conflicts to control and manipulate the young people under his charge. Would it be fair to use this example and draw the conclusion that evangelical Protestantism is full of legalism, control, rules and not relationship? Of course not.

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