What I admire about the Catholic Church: A Protestant perspective
As the title of this work implies, I am not Catholic, nor have I ever claimed to be. I was raised as a Methodist and have since attended different Protestant churches.
However, that does not at all diminish the influence of the Catholic Church on my life. I have relatives who are Catholic, and I have great respect for them and any church with sound doctrine and biblical principles. I do acknowledge that denominations of faith tend to isolate and hurt those on the outside of those labels, but the fact remains that we all still worship the same Savior and God, thus creating a bond that no man or organization on earth can break.
We have a bond made in heaven through the blood of Jesus, a bond that defies all anger, malice, rules, and logic. We have an eternal bond, and a bond that does not need to wait for death’s grasp to blossom. The same fellowship we will have together in eternity, we should now cultivate while alive on earth. I can think of no better way to work on nurturing that bond than to share all that I admire about the Catholic Church.
First, I would like to focus on Catholicism’s reverence for God. The Catholic Church has maintained a reverence for God that other churches have simply distilled into a casual coffee-shop environment through years of adjustments and reinventions. Regardless of what type of atmosphere a believer prefers, I think that Catholicism has created an environment that implies solemn respect for God. It does not let style, comfort, or appearances get in the way.
I also admire the widespread roots and community of the Catholic Church. Catholicism was and is one of the largest bodies of churches in the world. That is not to be taken lightly. The sense of community within the Church is overwhelming and ancient. A church with so much history, both good and bad, provides a learning experience for all members and a sense of unity within time and space. Not only are Catholics tied to each other in the present moment, but they are tied to their ancestors since the Church’s inception.
Perhaps my favorite aspect of the Catholic Church is the practice of confession. Though cleansing of sin comes from Christ and we must confess our sins to him, God has instructed us to confess our sins to each other as well.
Bringing sin to light is one of the most powerful things a believer can do. Where secrets lie dormant, there is a breeding ground for deeply rooted sin that multiplies unhindered. Confessing our sins to each other is a great way to grow closer to God and closer to each other. It is the first step to redemption. The Protestant church does address this, but does not dwell on it as heavily as the Catholic Church. Where Protestant churches encourage confession among peers, Catholicism focuses on confession with much more discipline and importance. I believe that is something Protestants could adopt and learn from.
Lastly, I appreciate the Catholic Church’s diligence and discipline. What modern Christianity lacks, in some instances, is a sense of discipline. Many tend to focus on God’s loving and forgiving nature, which is the foundation of our faith and the center of the saving power of Christ.
However, God called us to be disciples, which shares the same root word as “discipline.” I feel that the rituals in the Catholic Church, though considered legalistic by some, are actually an outstanding example of discipline and obedience if done with the right heart. In this way, our obedience shows respect to God and his commands. Fasting, vows of celibacy, Lent, and other examples of self-sacrifice in faith can be extremely powerful in demonstrating submission to God. In this aspect, some may lack the “fear of God.”
Though our paths split in 1517, I believe Catholics and Protestants can learn from each other and encourage each other. We are but one body: the body of Christ. I will leave you with this:
“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).
Let us obey the word of the Lord.
Editor’s Note: For more information about the Church’s teaching about the sacrament of Penance, read paragraphs 1422–1498 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Two paragraphs are especially noteworthy regarding the ministers of the sacrament:
Since Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation [see John 20:23; 2 Corinthians 5:18], bishops who are their successors, and priests, the bishops’ collaborators, continue to exercise this ministry. Indeed bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (CCC, 1461).
Only priests who have received the faculty of absolving from the authority of the Church can forgive sins in the name of Christ (CCC, 1495).