Given from the Catholic Broadcasting Station 2SM Sydney Australia
Choose a topic from Vol 1:
The law of the Catholic Church forbids participation in a religious service that is not Catholic because it is an implied repudiation of the faith which a Catholic professes to be the only true faith. It is good for non-Catholics to realize this so that, knowing that Catholics must refuse, they will not ask them to assist at the religious ceremony itself and then be offended as if refusal were due to lack of friendship.
A Catholic may not act as an official witness. A wedding in a church is not a merely social event; it is also a religious ceremony. Though non-Catholics may not see it, the Catholic position is alone logical. Protestants should choose witnesses of their own faith and spare Catholics the pain of having to refuse.
For very good reasons. Firstly, loyalty to Christ forbids our sanctioning in any way a false form of religion, and Protestantism is a corruption of Christ's religion. If one may attend any religious services, irrespective of creed, then a Christian could assist at pagan rites. There must be a limit somewhere, and the Catholic Church says that those limits exclude any false form of religion, even though it be an adulterated form of Christianity. The presence of a Catholic at Protestant services is a silent approval of the error that one religion is as good as another. St. Paul says, "A man that is a heretic avoid." Tit. III., 10. St. John says, "If any man come to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house, nor say to him: 'God speed you.'" 2 Jn. V., 10. The law of the Church, too, protects the faith of Catholics. If they attend Protestant services, there is always a danger that they will participate actively in a shamefaced way, and also a danger of their drifting into indifferentism and weakening in their own faith. Their presence, also, can be a cause of scandal to other Catholics who may begin to think that it is right for them also to attend at non-Catholic Churches. Nor is such attendance a kindness to Protestants. The abstention of Catholics from their services is a lesson of the utmost importance to them. Our attendance would sanction to a certain extent their idea that their religion also is as good as our own. But our absence from their Churches gives them food for thought. An Anglican might say, "Well, I have seen Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and people of many other religions at our services; but I have never yet seen a Catholic associated with us." And the fact that the vast Catholic Church denies their claims has led many a man from the chaos of the different Protestant Churches to the true religion.
Would a Christian who refused to attend pagan rites be a Pharisee? And is it narrow-minded to limit one's conduct according to the dictates of conscience? If so, it is better not to be what you would term broad-minded. And it is rather absurd to suggest that you despise Catholics for being true to their convictions. You should rather despise them if they were not.
If any discord arise, it is unavoidable. It is good to have peace, but not peace at any price; above all when the price is the violation of conscience. If Protestants are angry because Catholics will not do what the Catholic conscience forbids, then it is not the fault of Catholics. In any case, are not religious obligations greater than civil obligations? And is not the loss of earthly friends better than the loss of the friendship of Christ—if the worst should happen?
.It is not an insult to Protestants that a Catholic cannot attend a Protestant service. Every man must be guided by his own conscience. How far would one have to give up having any convictions at all, lest he insult those with whom he has to disagree? Nor do I compare Protestantism with paganism. I compared the unlawfulness of a Protestant assisting at pagan rites with the unlawfulness of a Catholic assisting at Protestant rites. A Catholic would be as justified in acting according to Catholic principles as a Protestant would be justified in fidelity to his own. That was the whole of my comparison.
It is not a question of their goodness, but of the religious system they support. No Catholic may give the impression by his presence that Protestantism as a system is a lawful substitute for the true Church.
You must not think that Catholics can do with their conscience what you can do with your conscience. A Protestant should say, "If Catholics really believe that their religion is the only form sanctioned by Christ, then I do not blame them for living up to their convictions. I would blame them did they seek to please men rather than God. And if I had their ideas I wTould do just as they do."
That would depend upon their convictions. We do not judge Protestants on principles they do not hold. If they think one religion as good as any other, I suppose they could attend almost any religion with a good conscience. But if an Anglican, for example, thought his to be the only true Church, and that all others were wrong, he wTould sin by attending other forms of worship. Objectively, of course, a Protestant does not sin by attending Catholic services. One who has the wrong religion may attend services of the right religion. But he who has the right religion certainly cannot attend the services of a wrong religion. Catholics may not assist at any but Catholic services.
That cannot apply in matters of conscience. If so, I could say, "Well now, if I were a murderer I would like him to help me to strangle that man. And since he is a murderer, I must do to him as I would like him to do to me in similar circumstances, and help him to strangle his victim." That is absurd. In all matters where we can do it with a good conscience we must do to others as we would have them do to us. In any case, we Catholics do not wish any Protestant to violate his conscience and offend God in order to please us.
Happily my own mother also became a Catholic. However, had she died as a Protestant, I would have attended her funeral, but would have taken part in none of the religious ceremonies associated with that funeral.
That commandment comes after the commandments dealing with God's personal rights, and it is to be observed for the love of God. It never demands that I dishonor God in order to honor my parents.
Love of my mother would take me to the funeral; love of God would prevent me from joining in the rites of a false religion.
There would be, if I could take part in a religious service conducted in the name of a religion opposed to the Church established by Christ. It would be disloyalty to Christ, and I cannot sin even for the sake of my mother. She would not be my mother but for the love of God, and the more we appreciate God's gifts the less right we have to offend Him because of them.
As I remarked, she received the grace of the Catholic faith before she died. But had she not, it would rather have been because I could not believe what she believed, and could not honestly pretend to do so, that I would have refrained from any part in the rites of a non-Catholic religion. And my particular mother would have been the last in the world to expect me to do so.