Last week, I was surveying Catholic news headlines and came across the article far below, which struck a chord. In the essay, the Catholic author, Jeff Mirus, responds defensively to the observation that evangelical Protestants quite often refer to Jesus Christ in their writings and conversations, whereas, in comparison, Roman Catholics are much more preoccupied with discussing their institutional church. Mirus argues that, in Catholic theology, Jesus IS the church, therefore when Catholics talk about their church, they’re REALLY referring to Jesus.
I grew up in the Catholic religion, attending both Catholic grammar school and high school, and remained a member until I was twenty-seven-years-old. While there was some mention of Jesus in religion class and during mass, the church and all of its institutional ritualistic facets dominated what we were taught. The system was THE thing rather than the Person the system alleged to worship. We had the pope, the bishops, priests, nuns, obligatory mass, confession, the other sacraments, holy days of obligation, Lent, abstention of meat on Lenten Fridays, rote prayers, feast days of saints, Mary, the liturgy, grandiose church buildings, stations of the cross, holy water, rosaries, medals, statues, scapulars, etc. In summary, we had a LOT of ritual, organization, and ceremony, but comparatively VERY LITTLE about Jesus. Yes, there was mention of Jesus now and then, but no one had a saving relationship with Jesus by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone. We only knew of the Catholic gospel of salvation through the church’s sacramental system and merit. We did not know Jesus as our Savior because, despite the denials of Catholic sophists, we were basically taught that we had to save ourselves by participating in the sacraments and by successfully obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules.
Here’s another example. I subscribe to the Rochester Catholic diocesan monthly newspaper for information purposes only, and rarely is there any mention of Jesus Christ in its pages. All of the articles are about the church’s clergy and its elaborate sacramental religious system.
After my wife and I accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we began attending a Bible-preaching church in our area and the difference was staggering. At our new church, it was pretty much ALL about Jesus! Thirty-five years later, it’s still pretty much ALL about Jesus at the evangelical church we currently worship at. I thank God for Bible-preaching, evangelical churches. The church is obviously important. But every individual must repent of their sin and trust in Christ as Savior. Going to church or being a member of a church or a denomination doesn’t save. Many religious institutions, such as Roman Catholicism – and Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower Society – have usurped the place of Christ, and teach that their organization is the “one true church” and the way to salvation. For each of them, it’s ALL about their organization and being a member of their institution with its gospel of works salvation.
No, Mr. Mirus, the reason Catholics rarely talk about Jesus Christ is because they don’t know Him as Lord and Savior.
Why do Catholics speak so often of “the Church” instead of “Christ”?
Postscript: Because Roman Catholics’ “faith” rests entirely on their institutional church, the current round of very public scandals leaves them badly shaken and demoralized.