CATHOLIC DIALOGUE #11
(The scene is a private residence in Bullhead City. Two people are standing on the porch. They knock and Chad opens the door.)
Jeffrey: Hello, my name is Jeffrey and this is my friend Wilkes. We were just in the neighborhood and wanted to take a minute to share this copy of Watchtower magazine with you. I think you will find it interesting and informative.
Chad: Well thank you Jeffrey, but I already subscribe to so many publications that I don't think I would have time to read yours.
Jeffrey: I understand, but Watchtower is filled with some great articles that deal with man's relationship with God.
Chad: Well, I agree that man's relationship with God is the most important subject a person can study. That is why I subscribe to Catholic Answers, the Catholic Digest, Liguorian, and The Catholic Sun. Add to that my Bible studies,and I'm sure you can see that I do my share of reading.
Jeffrey: It sure does sound like you are a big reader, but there's one thing I've always been curious about. Maybe you can answer a question for me?
Chad: I'll try.
Jeffrey: Well you know from your Bible studies that God strictly forbids us from making idols, and we are commanded not to make graven images?
Chad: Yes. That is covered by the first commandment and there are several other references in the old testament.
Jeffrey: Exactly. Then can you tell me why the Catholic Church teaches it's members to pray to the statues in your Churches?
Chad: Pray to the statues?! Did a Catholic tell you that? What is your source?
Jeffrey: I used to be a Catholic before I came to the U.S. and all the people in my family back home pray to the statues.
Chad: Well if your family members are doing that, then we should pray for them, because they are confused about what the Church uses the statues for. Now I have a question for you.
Chad: When you "were" a Catholic, did you ever attend a CCD class?
Jeffrey: I went for one year before I received Communion and then for another year before Confirmation. That was all I needed to know that it wasn't for me.
Chad: Two years of study, as a child. That's not quite what I could call extensive training. No wonder you have questions about the Church. Can you imagine trying to go through life with just a second grade education? You wouldn't be able to function very well as an adult because you would barely be able to read, probably couldn't sign your name, and a simple thing like a job application would be very confusing to you. It would almost be a miracle if you could get by at all. Don't you agree? Well that's what happened in your religious education. It's only natural that you would have many misconceptions about the Church.
Jeffrey: What do you mean? I don't have any questions. I know exactly what the Church teaches.
Chad: That's funny. I thought you said you had a question. That's how this conversation started. Isn't it?
Jeffrey: Well yes, but...
Chad: The truth is that you don't know exactly or even vaguely what the Church teaches or else you would never have left it.
Jeffrey: Well what about the statues? Every Church has statues don't they?
Chad: OK, let me give you and example. Do you carry a wallet?
Chad: And in that wallet do you have any pictures of your children?
Jeffrey: Yes, but what does that have to do with your graven images?
Chad: You carry photographs of your loved ones in your wallet and sometimes when you're away from them you look at the pictures and take comfort. You wouldn't try to feed or diaper a photo of a baby, but while looking at the picture your mind can focus on that child much better. This is what Catholics do with the statues. They are mental aids. We use them to keep our minds focused during prayer and meditation.
Jeffrey: But God said that we should not carve idols for ourselves. He says that in the old Testament book of Exodus. Exodus 20:3-5 to be exact.
Chad: I'm glad that you mentioned Exodus, because in Exodus 25:18-20 God commands the Isrealites to make images to remind them of Him. He says, "You will model two great winged creatures (angels) of beaten gold...." In Exodus 26:1 He says, "You will have embroidered (linen) with great winged creatures."
Jeffrey: Wait a minute. Let me look up those verses.
Chad: I'll write them down for you, so you can study them at length. Did you realize that God sometimes even allows for the pious use of images?
Jeffrey: Impossible. You're making this up.
Chad: What about in Numbers 21:8-9 when God tells Moses to make a serpent and mount it on a pole to heal the people of snake bites. I'm sure that the Isrealites didn't think it was the image that cured them. By the same token, the Catholic Church does not teach that the image of the Crucifix redeems us. It is a symbol of God's work and power. When I pray and look at the Crucifix, it keeps me aware of the great price that was paid for my salvation. I can never take it too lightly, because I can see it graphically depicted in that statue.
Jeffrey: That was very well put, but what about your Church history?
Chad: I'm sure I know the history you are referring to, but think of it this way. 2000 years ago Jesus said to Simon, "On this Rock I will build My Church." That was our commission. Later He gave them authority when He said,"What you (the Church) holds bound on earth is also bound in Heaven." Now about our history. He also said that the gates of hell would not stand against His Church. Those words were never more true than during our most turbulent times. We have known times of scandal and corruption, but the Paraclete that Jesus promised has always guided us through and the gates of hell have not prevailed.
Jeffrey: Wait a minute. Are you trying to say that the true divinity of the Church has been proved best during the times when it had the weakest leadership?
Chad: You could put it that way. What I'm trying to say is that God has been true to His promise to protect the Church.
Jeffrey: What about...
Chad: Excuse me, but I think were getting off of the subject. The topic of Catholicism is too broad for one afternoon's discussion, but since you mentioned history. What do you know about the Jehovah Witness history?
Jeffrey: I know that were trying to make a world with no sickness, war, or poverty.
Chad: Those are sure high ideals, but God never promised us that and you didn't answer my question. What do you know about your church history?
Chad: Eighteen hundred and seventy nine years after Jesus started Catholicism, Charles Russell started what is now known as the Jehovah Witnesses. Russell died in 1916 and was succeeded by "judge" Joseph Rutherford who was never really a judge, but he took the title because as an attorney he once substituted for an absent judge. The Witnesses have wrongly predicted the end of the world several times and have often changed doctrines. All that in just under 120 years. Some history, huh?
Jeffrey: Hold on a minute. How do you know so much about our church? And how do you know it's all true?
Chad: I've read some old copies of Watchtower magazine. Have you?
Jeffrey: Well no, but...
Chad: Maybe you should. It might make some interesting reading. That's what you said , wasn't it? Listen, it's been nice talking to you, but I have some errands to run. I have one more question for you.
Jeffrey: I'm almost afraid to hear it, but go ahead.
Chad: Have you ever read a book about Catholicism that was written by a Catholic?
Jeffrey: No, but what's the difference?
Chad: The difference is that your source of information may have been bias. In the interest of making a fair decision I think that you owe it to yourself to find out what the Church has to say for itself. If you're so sure that were wrong, this will confirm your beliefs. I think that you are sincere in your desire to know the truth and if that is the case then this is the least you can do. I have a few back issues of our magazines. You are welcome to them if you would like to look them over.
Jeffrey: I don't know. I mean, I'm not sure.
Chad: Well ok, if you decide that you want them you just let me know. I really do have to let you go now because it's getting late. Don't forget about the magazines they will be here when you're ready for them. In the mean time, I will be praying for you and for your family. Have a nice day, Jeffrey.
Jeffrey: Thank you.
Chad: God bless you both.
(The door closes behind them. Jeffrey looks at Wilkes and says...)
Jeffrey: Do you think Chad might have a point. He seemed to know what he was talking about and made good sense.
Wilkes: I don't know.