Saturday, March 4, 2006

Faith and Morality

My priest last night after RCIA said to me (apropos of something) words to the effect that Catholics believe morality is measured by faith, whereas Protestants believe it is measured by action. Both beliefs, he added, lead to the same place, but there is a fundamental difference in the approach.

I said that was surprising, because most people think Catholics measure morality by works and Protestants do so by faith.

"Yes," he said.

I'd be interested to learn what Catholics have to say about this. It impressed me because it provided a foundation for the Church's warning against scrupulosity. I don't think non-Catholics always realize how important it is for observant Catholics that their actions, inside and outside the church, be founded upon faith and not blind obedience. (This goes back to the quote that Fr. Neuhaus uses — I forget who originated it — that thinking with the church [sentire cum ecclesia] starts with thinking.)

For non-Catholics who wish to comment, I would stress that my priest was referring to morality, not salvation itself; this is a bit different from the conventional faith-vs.-works discussion.

* * *

For Catholic readers who like the inside-baseball stuff, I also learned last night some more details about how I will enter the Church. On Holy Thursday, there will be a short ceremony that will bring me into communion with the Church. (I am already baptized.) Then I will go to my first confession, and then Mass, where I will receive my first Communion. On Holy Saturday, I will be confirmed. I asked my priest which ceremony is the one to which I should invite friends and family, and he said the Saturday one.

I'm still a bit confused as to why the process has so many different stages. I believe it has to do with that I have to receive confession before Communion, and I have to receive first Communion before confirmation.