Monday, May 23, 2011

5 Words That Confuse Catholic and Protestant Dialgoue

Ever since I started my interest in the Catholic Church, I have found one of the most confusing aspects to be terminology.  Catholics use some words that I have never even heard of before, and at times, we use words that mean one thing in Catholicism, and something different in Protestant churches.  I ran into this so much when I was learning about Catholicism, that I even came up with an acronym for it (B.C.W. - Big Catholic Words).  Now that I have been Catholic for a little over two years, I am finding that recently, I have been forgetting this fact when talking to my Protestant brothers and sisters.

Here are some terms that I can think of, off of the top of my head, that may cause confusion in conversations between Catholics and Protestants, as well as what I believe to be the Protestant equivalent.  If you can think of some other terms, please feel free to add them in the comments.

In the Catholic Church you will typically hear this word to describe what most Protestants would refer to as the sermon.  This is what the minister will preach on.

In the Catholic Church, this is the person who is authorized by the Church to administer all of the Sacraments.  While it is true, the Deacons in the Catholic Church can also effect some of the Sacrements, they are not authorized to do them all.  For Protestants, this is the minister.

Out of all of the terms, this is probably the most loaded one.  In the Catholic Church, when referring to the term Church, we typically mean the institution created by Jesus Christ founded on Peter mentioned in  Matt 16:18.  For Protestants, this typically means the place where they gather to worship.  It can also mean the invisible institution that all believers belong to.

Sacred Tradition
In Catholic theology, this refers to the teachings of God that is not written down as part of the Bible.  Examples of this would include the Trinity, Hypostatic Union (Jesus was both Man and God), as well as the actual Books of the Bible.  Typically, when most Protestants hear the term tradition they immediately think of Mark 7:1-30, and believe that all traditions are human traditions and elevated higher than God's commands.

Communion of Saints
When Catholics refer to the Communion of Saints, we are referring to the people on Earth, Purgatory, and Heaven that make up Christ's Church.  Through this communion, we believe that it is perfectly acceptable to pray to God, for one another - regardless if they are alive here on Earth, or perfected in Heaven.  Protestants typically shun the idea of asking anyone that is not physically alive here on Earth to pray for them.  Some of them may even consider this a form of idolatry.

When Catholics refer to prayer, we primarily mean making a request of.  For this reason, we can ask for the intercession of saints in Heaven.  Since Protestants reserve prayer to the Trinity, they typically consider prayer to be worship.  Because of this, things that Catholics say can sound idolatrous in Protestant ears, such as praying to Mary, praying to the Angels, and praying to saints.  Since Protestants consider prayer as worship, they think that we actually worship Mary, Angels and Saints.

I hope that this can serve as a help to Catholics and Protestants alike.  Some Catholic and Protestant friends of mine truly believe that many of the challenges in ecumenical dialogue is a difference in terminology.  Combine this with the fact that we use the same words but mean completely different things, makes it very difficult to have productive conversations.

God bless.

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