Dear Pastor Lozano —
Thanks for writing. Of course there are differences between the
Catholic Church and various other churches and Christian communities,
but what we have in common is more central, and thinking about that
can help put the differences in perspective.
While I know the basics of how the AME Church arose from the Methodist
movement, there are some things I'm not really sure about, so maybe
you can fill us in.
Maybe we can get around to talking about the four great areas of
- morality, and
about some things that are common or distinct in each part. That
four-way breakdown is a classic idea: it's the way that catechisms
are traditionally structured.
Oh — speaking of catechisms, probably the best reference book around
on Catholic teaching is the official Catechism of the Catholic
Church. It's published on the internet at various places; you might
look around, because some web sites have better search engines than
There's a full-length version and a shorter "compendium" version
at the official Vatican web site:
I came to the Catholic faith after spending my student years
in a Baptist church, so I still appreciate an "outsider's" perspective.
The central doctrines we hold about God are what you can find in the Nicene Creed. I assume that is part of your church's faith
tradition as well.
I could be wrong about that; I understand that some Christian bodies
don't hold any official creeds to present their understanding of
How about taking a minute to look over that creed page, and maybe
it'll spark some questions.
In the meantime, perhaps I can do best
by giving my personal understanding of what makes the Catholic vision
As you probably have experienced, unbelievers sometimes look at
Christianity and they meet the "scandal of particularity" — they ask,
- How can we say that *this* man, *this* teaching, and *this*
event is where God revealed Himself?
- How can we say that these particular
things are decisive for our salvation?
Well, the Catholic Church holds to that "particularity",
that concreteness, very firmly. The Church tends to put great emphasis
on "the Word became flesh". Many things about our relationship
with God become concrete and tangible in Catholic life.
We emphasize Christ's Incarnation and Birth as salvation events
as prominent as the Cross and Resurrection. We hold firmly that the
salvation won for us is not a mere say-so by God the Father (as in
some erroneous interpretations of justification), but was gained
for us precisely because Christ became truly human, having a human
body; by this He became the mediator of God and man.
The early Church spent centuries clarifying what it knew about the
humanity and divinity of Christ — in response to the early heretics
who denied that "Christ has come in the flesh". (1 John
4:2-3) Our worship has concreteness too: it is not only teaching,
but is full of bodily worship, with:
- processions, and
That particularity is also found in our understanding of what the
Church is: we believe that Christ left us not an invisible, unstructured,
church-community, but a real, visible, tangible fellowship of believers
who live out their oneness in faith and love every day. It reaches
its summit in sharing the Eucharist.
The Eucharist brings my thoughts to all the Sacraments, the concrete,
bodily ways that God gives himself to us:
- the Eucharist
- Ordination, and
- the Anointing of
Just as salvation came to man through the body of Jesus,
He continues to sanctify, redeem, empower, and heal us through these
bodily events of holiness.
Of course some of that vision, which I've described in my amateur-theologian
way, is shared by non-Catholic communities such as the AME church,
but of course there are differences as well.
- Maybe we can go further
— Richard Chonak