Friday, August 26, 2005

CLS's Analysis on Cafeteria Catholics

Methodist, Dr. Albert C. Knudson, in a 1944 book entitled simply “Protestantism,” insisted that “the cardinal principle of Protestantism is "the inspiration of the individual and the consequent right of private judgment," as opposed to Rome's claim to be the authoritative interpreter in religious matters” (the link provides a great summary of this topic). It seems to me that Ken has hit the nail on the head. Total self-reliance in all spiritual matters seems to be the same spirit that many dissenting Catholics adopt. This realization of course is nothing new but it does provide another perspective to consider.

The difference between Protestants and dissenting Catholics is that the Reformers left the Church and current Protestants do not join Her. However, for some reason dissenting Catholics do not leave to find a tradition more in keeping with what they wish to hold. Why? There are manifold reasons, perhaps as many different reasons as there are individual dissenters. However, it seems to me that the reasons many do not leave is that the current culture better allows the dissenter to live peaceably within this discord than it did in the past. Here are some ways in which I think it does:

- The relativism of our culture and its distorted sense of tolerance conspire to make any claim of absolute truth untenable to modern ears.
- The radical individualism which the culture fosters (with its seeds at least partly from the Reformation) and the virtue assigned to those who seem to be in control of their destinies, together with our ingrained suspicion of authority make it quite difficult to trust anyone other than ourselves (at least in some matters since we cannot live with this suspicious attitude in our daily lives and still survive in a society).
- Our fallen state and our hedonistic culture condition us with a bias against any admonitions toward self-control and self-restraint.
- Finally, most Catholics are not well catechized and do not understand very well what the Church teaches or why.

Thus with very little to go on most dissenters (but not all), simply follow the path of least resistance. They are catechized by the culture and respond to the rare corrections that they hear with the canards with which the culture feeds them. Other dissenters who are relatively well catechized seem able to hold their positions because they have been able to convince themselves that they know better than the Magisterium . . . the path which every heretic and dissenter has taken.

What is required to solve this problem is the same that that which is required for faith itself—trust. We are born trusting and only eventually learn to distrust. Without trust a child could not learn, a society could not function, and a man cannot be saved. Trust is reasonable and it is possible because God has made us with this in built capacity. It is sin, temptation, pride, bad experiences which teach us not to trust and make it hard to overcome our resistance to trust. Grace through the Sacraments and cooperation with grace through prayer, self-mastery, and practice of the virtues is the way home to the true Spirit of Catholicism.

Add in the fact that relativism teaches that all religions are just as good as any other and the fact that one can find Prostesant individualist centered tendencies in some churches today (such as the singing of hymns written by Calvin, Wesley, and even Martin Luther) and I think he's got it all covered.

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