As a Catholic blogger, I’ve immersed myself into joining several social media blogging groups in order to help my articles gain more traffic. Most of the groups I am involved with are generally non-denominational Christian bloggers groups. While my articles are mostly well-received in Catholic circles, general Christian sites tend to be a mixed bag. Most Christian bloggers I’ve come across (Catholic and Protestant) are quite pleasant to engage with. But when it comes to discussing topics and worldviews we are passionate about, sometimes it comes across as abrasive, patronizing or resentful to those who might vehemently disagree with us. As I defend Catholic teachings in my own writing, I’m aware that I need to be careful with how I communicate my position without insulting a person’s character or misrepresenting their viewpoint. Even Scripture itself says,
“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind, but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.” — James 3:6-10 RSV
The following is my discussion with a fellow Christian blogger who happens to be a moderator in one of the blogging groups I’m in. She commented on my piece The Priesthood & “Call No Man Father” in response to my perceived “tone” towards Evangelicals. So in lieu of this edifying exchange, I decided to turn it into a blog article!
Bear in mind, I had to lightly edit to make this exchange easily readable. Her responses will be labelled in red and mine will be in regular black, while other commenters who chime in will be labelled in different colors. I have also attached ‘side links’ to my other articles to expand more on the talking points of the exchange.
I’m sorry to hear you feel that way about my article. I tried to make it clear in my post that I can sympathize with certain Protestants who are apprehensive towards the Catholic priesthood in light of Sola Deo Gloria. I guess it just depends on the view of the denomination or the individual.
In my experiences, the hostility goes both ways. I’ve written other pieces condemning hostility from Catholics towards Protestants. I hope this somewhat offers some clarity regarding where I’m coming from.
Well, the simplest way I can explain confession comes from James 5:16 (KJV),
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
I think confessing to an individual (whether a priest or a fellow brother or sister in Christ) is a tangible way of being open to God’s healing grace. To me, it’s kind of like seeing a therapist and unloading whatever internal baggage is eating us inside. Kind of like shedding light unto darkness. And it allows the individual members of the Body of Christ to work with one another as God intended.
As far as celibacy is concerned, nobody is forced into it. And it’s more of a ‘discipline’ that is subject to change as opposed to a capital-D doctrine. Most people would be surprised to know that we do have married priests. Many priests in the Byzantine rite are married. Protestant ministers who are married and convert to Catholicism usually become priests. Father Dwight Longenecker is a former Anglican priest who is married and is now a well-known Catholic priest and apologist.
The idea of celibacy is often a heated topic because the first thing that always come to mind is the sexual abuse scandals. I don’t think celibacy has anything to do with sexual deviancy since we as Christians are meant to dedicate our sexuality to Him, whether that means saving it for marriage or through living in chastity just like Paul the Apostle.
The priest declares your sin to be forgiven by the grace of God, not by his own doing. That’s an authority that was given by Christ to the Apostles in John 20:23 (RSV),
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
As far as the (Roman) Catholic requirements to be a priest are concerned, I think you’ve already explained it well yourself. The reason for priestly celibacy is to focus more energy on the church. But the vetting process before a vow of celibacy is usually quite thorough. If the person is prone to burn in passion, they would be better off marrying and/or becoming a priest in the Byzantine rite if the priesthood is their calling.
It’s a strange loophole between sub-traditions of Catholicism, but it only shows that the Roman rite isn’t the summary of what the Catholic Church is. It just happens to be the larger and more well-known part of it because our authoritative office happens to be in Rome. As far as penance is concerned, another way to word it is an act of repentance. Whenever we give our lives to Christ, we confess that we are sinners and we turn to God. Penance is not ‘earning’ forgiveness, but the act of avoiding sin and turning to God through prayer, devotion, good deeds, etc.
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I disagree with some of your conclusions and practices, but agree that we need to appeal to Christ for forgiveness in prayer and seek to follow God’s word in all that we do.