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Jason Holliston
Saturday, May 07, 2005  
Imperfect Faith

Father Jim Tucker posted this last October, and it must have been before I began to read his blog on a regular basis, because I can't see myself missing this one. It's very topical to a lot of the buzz lately with Pope Benedict XVI's election and "cafeteria Catholics". With the dissenters getting so much press lately about their laundry list of complaints about the Church (celibate, male priests, birth control, abortion, etc.), and so many polls telling us that a majority of Catholics not agreeing with "traditional Church teachings", it's important to step back and consider what this all means.

First, if you are an imperfect Christian, does this mean you should give up? Of course not -- all Christians sin, and all are in need of forgiveness. A healthy relationship with God requires Christians to realize their imperfections and their frailties and work toward being a better human being, remembering that perfection is unattainable, at least while on Earth. Going to Mass is a great way of working towards that goal, even if you fall short in many other areas. This applies to people that disagree with the Church on fundamental teachings, as well. You may disagree with the Church on a tradition such as a male-only priesthood, but this does not mean you aren't welcome in the Church. Enter Don Jim's excellent advice:

A second thing to consider is what one does agree with and how one is practicing the Faith. Before talking about your dissent from the Church, lay out what you do assent to. Start with the Creed. Consider that, even though all the truths of the Faith are equally true, some truths are more central than others. To reject papal infallibility is wrong. But it's more wrong to reject, say, the Resurrection. It's wrong to reject the Church's teaching on divorce. It's far worse to reject her teaching on the Trinity. One's focus, then, should be on the center and only then move out to the perifery. A person should ask himself what doctrines he does believe, and why he believes them, starting with the central ones. He should ask himself how the Gospel impacts his life and changes his behavior. Only after all that should he start to highlight what he rejects and how he diverges from orthopraxy -- and what the reasons are for those divergences. I think a lot of people would be surprised by how much they do believe.

That's about right, and I think that people need to reflect on that point -- the Catholics (fallen away or otherwise) that have disagreements with the Church, and the so-called "ultra-orthodox" Catholics that have been loud lately about their desire for the dissenters to leave the faith.

Read his whole post -- it's very insightful. He says he's working on a larger, more up to date piece about the cafeteria Catholic phenomenon, which I eagerly await.

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