A new Pope is a somewhat rare event. It has been 8 years since the last election. By comparison I blog very regularly.
Today a new Pope was elected and interestingly I saw some rather painful posts on Facebook. Yes, there are many making fun for various reason but those are not the ones that were painful to me. It is the “Evangelical Christians” I see making comments about how Catholics are idolators and deify the Pope and just how sad all of that is.
I’d like to take a moment to thank my RCC friends for taking time to remedy my own ignorance on these issues. See, there was a time that I would have probably joined in, but I’ve learned some interesting things by taking time to ask people who I respect.
I do not have hundreds of Catholic friends. Maybe half a dozen would consider me a friend. They have been very good at answering my questions though. See, I believe that the cure for ignorance is a question. When I was born I knew nothing, then I began to learn by observation until I was able to ask my first question. I do not know what that question was but through school I tended to impress my teachers, not by the answers I had but by my questions.
Eventually I developed this saying, “The only stupid question is the question not asked.”
It seems that some people would rather say things in ignorance on the hope that they are right based on their perceptions. That is fine, but maybe I can help you a bit by asking some of the questions you may be wondering.
To my Catholic friends, please chime in with a comment if I get any of this wrong. I have to defer to your authority on your own beliefs.
Do Catholics worship the Pope and the Saints?
That is a really good question. I was actually taught that they do, but one day I was having lunch with a good Catholic brother and flat out asked him about this. It turns out they do no.
The term most Catholics will use (providing that it is translated into English because most Catholics are not English speaking) is “Venerate.” Now you might think this is splitting hairs, but it is a very important distinction, and to be honest it is one we tend to automatically apply when it comes to our own practices.
It turns out that we elevate certain Christians in a somewhat similar way. For some people it is their local pastor, or that elderly saint who can pray down fire (almost literally). Huge crowds of Christians will venerate someone like Tim Tebow or Billy Graham. They can literally fill a stadium.
We instinctively recognize that our relationship with those people is not worship. We do not believe them to be divine, though we are often shocked when we see they are human. A good example would be Jimmy Swaggart. When he fell from grace it was huge.
So that is the difference between worshiping the pope and venerating the pope.
Ok, but don’t they pray to the pope and saints? We don’t pray to Tim Tebow
See, you guys have some great questions. To be honest I had to ask this as a follow up to my first question too. I mean think about it, if you pray to someone you are clearly one breath away from worshiping them aren’t you?
My friend took time to explain the concept to me though. See, when I pray to God I am asking Him to move in a situation. If I have a sick kid I ask Him to heal the kid or at least let us all get some rest, right?
When a Catholic person prays to Mary or some other saint, it isn’t really to get that person to meet the need. Weird right?
Well, maybe not. See if I have a sick kid I might call my pastor (actually I’d end up talking to his wife) and ask them to agree with me in prayer. In short I’m asking them to take my need before God. That is what a Catholic is doing, they are asking the saint to ask God to move in a specific situation.
Now, I’m not arguing that this is something that is exactly required or even helpful. For me the jury is still out, but I have to admit, it is not exactly the same as what I thought it was.
I’d like to post some more on this issue. What other questions might you have? I’ve asked quite a few things but I’m over 700 words already so I’ll get to them later. Let me know in the comments and I’ll either answer from what I learned by asking or I’ll pester my Catholic friends about the question if I haven’t already asked.