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To start from the bottom of your post – what I think is made clear is that you don’t even believe the Church when it says what it believes. You say:
[quote:3vzfdx3u]”You may have the “official” teachings, for I’ve seen plenty of “both ways” talk from your church……….Bottom line is that they still think that “we are judged base on how good we are” and no matter what the “official” teaching”[/quote:3vzfdx3u]
In other words, you think that the Church teaches XYZ but they don’t really teach XYZ *wink wink, nudge nudge*. To make the case for what the Church teaches (and has always taught) concerning merit even more clear, here’s a few snippets from the Catholic past –
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, [i:3vzfdx3u]for it is God who works in you[/i:3vzfdx3u] to will and to act according to his good purpose.
2nd Council of Orange 529 A.D. Canon 20: That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
Augustine (as quoted in the Catechism): “What merit of man is there before grace by which he can achieve grace, as only grace works every one of our good merits in us, and as God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing else but His own gifts?”
Council of Trent – Decree on Justification, Chapter 5: The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, [b:3vzfdx3u]without any merits existing on their parts[/b:3vzfdx3u], they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification,[i:3vzfdx3u] by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace[/i:3vzfdx3u]: in such sort that, while God touches the heart of man by the illumination of the Holy Ghost, neither is man himself utterly without doing anything while he receives that inspiration, forasmuch as he is also able to reject it; yet is he not able, by his own free will, without the grace of God, to move himself unto justice in His sight. Whence, when it is said in the sacred writings: Turn ye to me, and I will turn to you, we are admonished of our liberty; and when we answer; Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted, we confess that we are prevented by the grace of God.
Council of Trent – Canons on Justification, Canon 1: If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.
Now, you who are not Catholic will tell me that the Catholic Church doesn’t believe these things laid out above? They’ve just been thrown in the various dogmatic decrees here and there to “keep up appearances” or something? For shame, if you truely believe such a thing. This IS what the Catholic Church believes (above), no Catholic is free to deviate from such things. Neither are you justified in telling me or anyone that “oh they don’t really teach THAT!” or anything similar, which you’ve done here. Honesty when dealing with people of faith that differs from one’s own is integral in fostering mutual respect and understanding between such groups – misrepresenting one another (such that has been done for hundreds of years now, on both sides of the fence, Protestant and Catholic) does absolutely nothing to reach for that high mark that Jesus set for us when he prayed “That they all may be one”(John 17:21). Speaking of that verse, it is the title of one of Pope John Paul II’s greatest Encyclicals (Ut Unum Sint, written in 1995). Even tho you are of course very far from the Catholic Church, perhaps you might deign to accept a few words of wisdom from JP2 taken from the above Encyclical, when he writes:
[quote:3vzfdx3u]This truth about dialogue, so profoundly expressed by Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, was also taken up by the Council in its teaching and ecumenical activity. Dialogue is not simply an exchange of ideas. In some way it is always an “exchange of gifts”.
For this reason, the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism also emphasizes the importance of “every effort to eliminate words, judgments, and actions which do not respond to the condition of separated brethren with truth and fairness and so make mutual relations between them more difficult”. The Decree approaches the question from the standpoint of the Catholic Church and refers to the criteria which she must apply in relation to other Christians. In all this, however, reciprocity is required. To follow these criteria is a commitment of each of the parties which desire to enter into dialogue and it is a precondition for starting such dialogue. It is necessary to pass from antagonism and conflict to a situation where each party recognizes the other as a partner. When undertaking dialogue, each side must presuppose in the other a desire for reconciliation, for unity in truth. For this to happen, any display of mutual opposition must disappear. Only thus will dialogue help to overcome division and lead us closer to unity.[/quote:3vzfdx3u]
In the end, I would urge you to present an honest and accurate portrayal of Catholic belief if you are going to critique it – anything less is the old straw man debate, and there is no use in defending a straw man. If you have a question concerning what Catholics believe then by all means ask; don’t go around telling Catholics what they believe if you can only do so as you have here (by way of reasoning it like ‘your church teaches XYZ, but they[i:3vzfdx3u] really [/i:3vzfdx3u]mean by that is ABC) when what you are saying is not only far from what the Church actually teaches, but is indeed the exact [b:3vzfdx3u]opposite[/b:3vzfdx3u] of what it teaches.