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The Catholic "Fundamentalist", and the Snow Shovel

Marcel Duchamp. In Advance of the Broken Arm.
(Marcel Duchamp. In Advance of the Broken Arm. [Source])

1) Introduction

In the Province of Quebec these days, Catholics who try to be consistent with the teachings of their Church are sometimes accused of being "Fundamentalists". Is this true? What exactly do these people mean by "Fundamentalist"? And why do they use such a word?

2) What dogma probably looks like, in the eyes of an Atheist

Often, when Atheists see a real Catholic, they claim he is a "Fundamentalist". The position of these Atheists is actually quite logical. Put yourself in their shoes: God doesn't exist, so dogma cannot be something related to God! According to them, dogma, if well used, can only be a means, never something to be respected because of some intrinsic value. Dogma, for an atheist, is a lot like a snow shovel.

When your driveway is filled with snow, you grab a snow shovel and you go clear the driveway. Your life doesn't revolve around your snow shovel, you don't sell your soul to the snow shovel, and when the driveway is finally cleared, you stick the snow shovel in the snow bank, and go back into your house. The snow shovel is just a tool, an instrument, something that exists for you, for your own good.

In the eyes of an Atheist, a Catholic probably appears to have fallen off his rocker. For an Atheist, it's as if the Catholic took his snow shovel inside his warm home, pulled his child out of bed, stuck his child head first into the snow bank, then proceeded to tuck the snow shovel into the child's bed. "Sweet dreams, my cutesy shovy-shovel", might the Catholic say as he kisses the snow shovel good night. For an Atheist, a Catholic throws out what's important (emotions of love), and replaces it with a meaningless instrument (religious dogma).

3) What dogma looks like, in the eyes of a Catholic

If God doesn't exist, then of course the Atheist is right! And even granted that God exists, if God didn't found the Catholic Church, then of course Catholic dogmas are false and should be rejected. An untrue dogma must not be called a "dogma", but a lie.

Except God exists, and this can be demonstrated (see among others "The Proofs of God's Existence: Some Preliminary Groundwork"). And as Apologetics teaches us, God founded the Catholic Church. Dogma is not a snow shovel, but something God reveals to us about Himself. If God tells us: "Hey men, I'm Eternal, All-Powerful and Infinitely Intelligent. Oh, and by the way, the following statement was true, is true, and will be true, world without end!", and then God proceeds to tell us something, then that's it! What God has just explicitly proclaimed is a dogma!

Dogmas don't change, because God doesn't change. Dogmas can't fail, because God can't fail. And dogmas can't be misinterpreted, because God himself guides their interpretation (see among others "Papal Infallibility, and the Stupid Gods").

Dogmas, if you need a metaphor, are more like a window on God, than a snow shovel. They let the sunlight in, i.e. they tell us something about God. Catholics tend to throw a fit when Atheists try to screw large sheets of plywood over the windows. For Atheists, it's just another form of artistic expression, it's just the way they like to decorate their apartment. For Catholics, the windows let the sunshine in, and living in the dark is no fun.

4) What is the importance of true dogmas?

To act well, you must know the goal of your actions, and the correct means to attain that goal.

We cannot live well without the Catholic dogmas, because men have a destiny that is supernatural. Our goal is not knowable by reason alone (although our reason can discover Ethics, which is a very good start toward that goal). We were not made for the maggots in the cemetery, but for Eternal Happiness, with God and with all of God's children. We cannot know the reason why we exist without dogma, and we cannot know how to attain that goal without dogma.

Any attack on dogmas is an indirect attack on God, and a direct attack on all men called to Eternal Life by God. Take a Catholic dogma, any dogma, and modify it just a little bit. You will cause immense harm, no matter which dogma you fiddle with.

Let's take a few examples. How about the dogma of Christ's divinity? If Jesus is not God, then the sufferings of Christ on the Cross did not have infinite value, so there is no Redemption, and we're screwed. How about the dogma about the Virgin Mary being "Mother of God"? If Mary gave birth to something other than God, then we're screwed again. How about the dogma saying that Christ founded the Church? If the Church is an invention of men, then the Sacraments of the Church don't give grace, and without God's grace, we're screwed. Dogma of Heaven? No Heaven, we're screwed. Baptism for the forgiveness of sins? No forgiveness, screwed again. And so on...

5) Who are the people being condemned as "Fundamentalists", and who does the condemning?

One of the lighter aspects of this whole problem is exactly who is being condemned as a "Fundamentalist", and by whom these persons are being condemned. You would think that good, moderate, reasonable Catholics would label extremist Catholics as being "Fundamentalists".

Except the people throwing the "Fundamentalist" label around are often people who have nothing whatsoever to do with the Catholic religion. They are not baptized, they couldn't tell the difference between a Rosary and a lemon squeezer, they've never set foot inside a confessional or given a penny to pay for the upkeep of a church, and they are even quite often outspoken Atheists!

At the receiving end of the "Fundamentalist" label, you often have people whose worst sin happens to be believing all the teachings of the Catholic Church (which all Catholics are required to do, under penalty of excommunication). They publicly assert their faith, they try to love God and their neighbors (including Atheists!), they make efforts to learn and understand the teachings of Jesus, they are subject to their lawful superiors, and they never, never would dare tell the Pope how to interpret the Bible, or the Apostolic Tradition.

This last point is important. These Catholics are often accused of "creating their own interpretation" of the teachings of the Catholic Church. But this is impossible! These Catholics, as all Catholics, abandon their own interpretations of dogmas, and they do so publicly! Real Catholics explicitly, emphatically, publicly and unavoidably refuse to hang on to their private interpretation of dogmas! They claim that if ever (God forbid) there should be a disagreement between the Pope and themselves, the Pope is right, and they are wrong!

6) Conclusion

Dogmas are not snow shovels, but then a shovel might come in handy sometimes to clear the lies covering them!

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