There are not a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.
– Bishop Fulton Sheen.
The thing that non-Catholic Christians do not understand and many if not most Catholics do not know, is that everything the Catholic Church teaches is biblical. I know just enough of the Bible to explain many of the common arguments, of course not everything, but it’s enough to frustrate those who define their Christianity as ‘not Roman Catholic’.
And so it is, that I find myself in numerous discussions not all of which are friendly.
The year was 1992, and my ex-Catholic, nondenominational fiancé and I were planning our wedding. High on the list was getting pre-marital counsel. The priest at my parish suggested we use Chuck’s minister, why I do not know, so we made arrangements with Pastor Jerry and since he was available we also asked him to perform the wedding ceremony. The three premarital meetings were to be held in the evenings at his church.
The first meeting was a disaster. When Pastor Jerry found out I was Catholic he was noticeably upset. Heavens to Betsey, a Catholic in his midst. He immediately began the attack. He had a fair number of ex-Catholics in his congregation and had good success with converting some from the Catholic Church to his church. The attack caught me by surprise.
He started with the issue of purgatory. The Catholic Church teaches this and it is wrong. Nothing in the bible about this, he explained.
I said that there are biblical references to this teaching. I mentioned where Jesus is speaking about brothers with differences and how they should resolve them quickly, because if they do not, then they will be handed over to the judge and the judge to the jailer and they will not be released until they had paid the last penny. “So where is this place that you do not get released from until you have paid the last penny? If Hell is a place you never get out of, just what is this place that Jesus is talking about?” I asked.
He actually responded that he was not familiar with this bible quote. Now I was surprised. I thought, does he not know the Bible? I was so shocked that now I do not remember the rest to the attack. All I am certain of is that Jerry, was not pleased and did not care for the other two meetings we would have to fulfill the premarital requirements. He had met a Catholic that could quote the bible in defense of the teachings of the Church. It was inexcusable.
Many non-Catholics are puzzled by purgatory. Are we not taught, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others?” If we fail to forgive our brother his sins against us, then forgiveness for our sins will be withheld. To what extent, I do not know. But I take Jesus at his word. We are still saved by the grace of God it is just that we may need some sort of purification process to stand before the throne of God. Forgiveness is hard work. It can only happen out of true humility and in love as we love our brothers as we love ourselves. The fate of my soul depends on it 70 times 7.
After this encounter, Jerry would do a series of anti-Catholic sermons for the next four Sundays. Then a month before the wedding when his suggestions to Chuck that he should call off the wedding failed, he took Chuck to lunch to explain how he could not perform the wedding ceremony because, “Mary is too Catholic.”
Chuck found us another minister and we did get married. Now over 24 years later, we are still married, unequally yoked as Jerry suggested it would be. Yes, it’s been a tough job for me to carry Chuck along our Christian walk together but it has been worth it. (Of course I am just kidding.)
I forgive you Pastor Jerry, I hope you forgive me, the Catholic in your midst.
Biblical references in this story and to purgatory
1 Corinthians 3:11 – 15
Matthew 18:21 – 35