As a Protestant, I admit that I am not fully versed with the teachings of the Catholic Church. I know that the Pontiff and his Bishops have assiduously documented their teachings throughout the millennia. In a similar vein, the Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches ordered themselves in a hierarchical manner. As an evangelical with a Baptist background, I admit that I am more congregational in inclination…
But we cannot negate the significant contributions of Catholics to the Christian faith. Thoughtful scholars such as Thomas Merton and G.K. Chesterton merit our careful attention. What’s more, the Catholic Church carried Christianity through the Dark Ages, or “Medieval” Times. Celibacy among nuns and monks was a concept that originated with the Catholic Church. This devotion to God over and above marital matters, imperfect though it has been throughout history, jives closely with the teaching of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 7.
The Jesuit tradition has brought much to our society, evidenced by the establishment of Stadacona (Québec City) and Hochelaga (Montréal) here in Canada. Hospitals and centres of learning flourished under the Holy Catholic Church. This doesn’t take away from Protestant achievements, which arguably resulted in the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, as well as the formation of a myriad of post-secondary institutions. Even still, Catholics bring with them thousands of years of tradition that cannot be easily forgotten.
In conclusion, I am grateful for the contribution of Catholicism. Yes, the Inquisition, witch trials and the Crusades were all blights on Christendom. Monty Python pokes fun at the ridiculousness of it all, and rightly so. It is true that I do not believe that purgatory has a Scriptural basis. Yes, I disagree with revering Mary, the infallibility of the papacy and the notion of praying to the Saints. After all, I believe in the “priesthood of all believers,” in accordance with 1 Peter 2:5. But, having said all this, not all the traditions initiated by the Catholic Church are negative. Many are helpful. Many can be of benefit to the believer.
I think there is much to glean from the Catholic Church in our Christian walks. Believers would do well to study the teachings of those pilgrims and teachers of old. Thomas Aquinas, Brother Lawrence, St. John of the Cross, Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa propel us all to think deeply about many topics such as the “dark night of the soul,” grace, showing compassion to the poor and experiencing God. I am grateful for these people and the legacy they have left us, just as I am thankful for current-day teachers/thinkers like Joel Rosenberg, who have a real heart for reaching the Jewish people and Muslim populations for the cause of Christ.