Philosophy

December 24, 2013

An Adventist on Catholic Morality–Part 1

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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Some of the most moral people I know are Roman Catholic or were raised Catholic. My mentor at the University of Akron was Roman Catholic. He not only had the highest moral values I have ever seen in a fellow human but repeatedly taught me about grounding my actions in Christian loving service. And that was in our context of a secular university!!!He has become an expert at bringing faith into work.

Another colleague in our department repeatedly put my Catholic friend down. He gently and consistently kept his Christian spirit, took the moral high road, served students well, and knew when to resist that person to create a boundary that not only turned the other cheek but created a place of peace.

As Christians, we read the moral stuff in the gospels but living it out  helps us most. And my Catholic friend did that.He was a true mentor, showing me how to be the gospel. He revived my soul, kept me from wandering further from God at a time I was losing my Biblical faith, and helped me focus on student service.

Some of the most moral people I know are Roman Catholic or were raised Catholic.

. I will never forget his simple but direct advice one hot afternoon. As I noted in my blog about work ethic, when I moved from flip-flop California to the Midwest cold. It brought a new reality to my work ethic. I was trying to learn from my colleagues about being more focused on service to students and was developing a nasty attitude in the process. I knew how to work hard, but the Midwest took “working hard” to a whole new level. Trying to serve several doctoral students and over 75-100 MA advisees, teach large graduate classes and work on various committees was growing me up fast.

As an experienced principal and superintendent and the eldest brother of a family with 14 siblings, my mentor knew what hard work felt like. I watched him and tried to keep up. He was twenty years older but knew how to stay focused better than I. As I tried to keep up I was developing a nasty attitude in the process.  I was becoming like the “elder brother” in Luke 15, where duty keeps you going but your heart wants to be out playing with the “prodigal son.”

I hadn’t been yoked fully to Christ in the spirit of loving service.My Catholic friend had.He gently reminded me that if I was a son of God I didn’t need to feel like a slave.It was one of those moral encounters that changes your mind and, slowly, your life. It was Catholic morality at its finest, guiding me to embrace service, not as a slave forced by fear or duty, but as a son loved and yoked to my Elder Brother, Jesus.

Several years after this event, I worked with a priest who needed a doctorate to better serve his Catholic community. I was the “spare tire” on his dissertation as I watched others wiser than I help him figure out how to study the values of the Benedictine order and how they trickled down to the lives and actions of college students at a few Benedictine colleges in the U.S. I saw him struggle with deep Christian determination to understand how the Benedictine founding values of a college were still guiding moral decisions of students. His study was similar to my own study of how Loma Linda University’s founding values were guiding that institution’s development.

He gently reminded me that if I was a son of God I didn’t need to feel like a slave.

I also realized how many of the Benedictine values I also cherished in my own Christian walk.

These experiences helped moderate my previous view that everything about the Roman Catholic church was bad. I had read about the Protestant Reformation and saw the abuse of the Roman Catholic church and I did not want anything to do with an oppressive group like that.

Most of the Protestant reformers argued, as  my Adventist community had, that the Catholic church was abusively hurting the Christian church for most of its existence. They even saw the Roman Catholic Church as the little horn of Daniel 10 and the beast of Revelation, the entity at work against the true believers in Christ.

But we also have had strong voices in our Adventist community reminding us that many Catholics were the best Christians in the world, and that it was only the Catholic Church we had to watch out for. There were even a few brave leaders who even talked about how much they liked the Catholics and some of their teachings. George Vandeman was one. He was one of the most inspirational leaders I watched as a kid and youth and I still consider him as one of my first “online” Adventist mentors.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Vandeman

In his book and television series “What I like about….” Vandeman reviewed what he liked about the Catholics.

Over the next several weeks I plan to do the same.

So, if you are a Catholic reading this, you at least know that I come from a deep belief to be cautious about the Roman Catholic church even as I was taught to see how wonderful Catholics can be. So please stay with the discussion long enough to hear me out over the next few weeks. I have more praise than censor to give here.

If you are an Adventist that automatically distrusts Catholics and Adventists who speak favorably about them, please keep reading over the next few weeks as I hope to explain how I have maintained the Reformation’s concerns about Catholicism and at the same time, see where many of the moral teachings of Catholics are very basic and important Biblical ethical truths.

I believe, or at least I hope, that even though we come from different places in life, we want to follow Jesus.

First, in this blog I set the tone for how I will approach Catholic morality. In keeping with the spirit of Vandeman, I have talked more about what I have learned from Catholics.

Second, in my next blog, I will look at some of the basic moral teachings of the Catholic church and talk about the similarities between Catholic and Adventist moral teaching and practices.

Third, I want to talk more candidly about the moral challenges I see Catholics having. Here, I use some of their own voices to raise issues about Catholics.

Fourth, I want to go down to some of the roots of moral theology by discussing some of the deeper differences between Adventist and Catholic moral theology, specifically related to the Sanctuary, Sabbath, and the Big 10 Commandments.  Here I want to challenge the deepest evil both Adventists and Catholics bring to their desire for morality: force and legalism.

Fifth, I use Jeremiah 18, Ezekiel 18 and Matthew 25 to talk about what it will be like for Catholics and Adventist to face God in the judgment.

I will be rolling these blogs out over this Christmas season, when Adventists and Catholics, like shepherds and wisemen, both come to worship the Christ Child. I believe, or at least I hope, that even though we come from different places in life, we want to follow Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the most moral people I know are Roman Catholic or were raised Catholic. My mentor at the University of Akron was Roman Catholic. He not only had the highest moral values I have ever seen in a fellow human but repeatedly taught me about grounding my actions in Christian loving service. And that was in our context of a secular university!!!

He has become an expert at bringing faith into work.

Another colleague in our department repeatedly put my Catholic friend down and he gently and consistently kept his Christian spirit, took the moral high road, served students well, and knew when to resist that person to create a boundary that not only turned the other cheek but created a place of peace.

We Christians read this moral stuff in the gospels but it is seeing it lived out that helps us most. And my Catholic friend did that.

He was a true mentor, showing me how to be the gospel. He revived my soul, kept me from wandering further from God at a time I was losing my Biblical faith, and helped me focus on student service.

Some of the most moral people I know are Roman Catholic or were raised Catholic.

I will never forget his simple but direct advice one hot afternoon. As I noted in my blog about work ethic, when I moved from flip-flop California the Midwest cold brought a new reality to my work ethic. I was trying to learn from my colleagues about being more focused on service to students and was developing a nasty attitude in the process. I knew how to work hard, but the Midwest took “working hard” to a whole new level. Trying to serve several doctoral students and over 75-100 MA advisees, teach large graduate classes and work on various committees was growing me up fast.

As an experienced principal and superintendent and the eldest brother of a family with 14 siblings, my mentor knew what hard work felt like. I watched him and tried to keep up. He was twenty years older but knew how to stay focused better than I. As I tried to keep up I was developing a nasty attitude in the process.  I was becoming like the “elder brother” in Luke 15, where duty keeps you going but your heart wants to be out playing with the “prodigal son.”

I hadn’t been yoked fully to Christ in the spirit of loving service.

My Catholic friend had.

He gently reminded me that if I was a son of God I didn’t need to feel like a slave.

It was one of those moral encounters that changes your mind and, slowly, your life.

It was Catholic morality at its finest, guiding me to embrace service, not as a slave forced by fear or duty, but as a son loved and yoked to my Elder Brother, Jesus.

Several years after this event, I worked with a priest who needed a doctorate to better serve his Catholic community. I was the “spare tire” on his dissertation as I watched others wiser than I help him figure out how to study the values of the Benedictine order and how they trickled down to the lives and actions of college students at a few Benedictine colleges in the U.S. I saw him struggle with deep Christian determination to understand how the Benedictine founding values of a college were still guiding moral decisions of students. His study was similar to my own study of how Loma Linda University’s founding values were guiding that institution’s development.

He gently reminded me that if I was a son of God I didn’t need to feel like a slave.

I also realized how many of the Benedictine values I also cherished in my own Christian walk.

These experiences helped moderate my previous view that everything about the Roman Catholic church was bad. I had read about the Protestant Reformation and saw the abuse of the Roman Catholic church and I did not want anything to do with an oppressive group like that.

Most of the Protestant reformers argued, as has my Adventist community, that the Catholic church was abusively hurting the Christian church for most of its existence. They even saw the Roman Catholic Church as the little horn of Daniel 10 and the beast of Revelation, the entity at work against the true believers in Christ.

But we also have had strong voices in our Adventist community reminding us that many Catholics were the best Christians in the world, and that it was only the Catholic Church we had to watch out for. There were even a few brave leaders who even talked about how much they liked the Catholics and some of their teachings. George Vandeman was one. He was one of the most inspirational leaders I watched as a kid and youth and I still consider him as one of my first “online” Adventist mentors.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Vandeman

In his book and television series “What I like about….” Vandeman reviewed what he liked about the Catholics.

Over the next several weeks I plan to do the same.

So, if you are a Catholic reading this, you at least know that I come from a deep belief to be cautious about the Roman Catholic church even as I was taught to see how wonderful Catholics can be. So please stay with the discussion long enough to hear me out over the next few weeks. I have more praise than censor to give here.

If you are an Adventist that automatically distrusts Catholics and Adventists who speak favorably about them, please keep reading over the next few weeks as I hope to explain how I have maintained the Reformation’s concerns about Catholicism and at the same time, see where many of the moral teachings of Catholics are very basic and important Biblical ethical truths.

I believe, or at least I hope, that even though we come from different places in life, we want to follow Jesus.

First, in this blog I set the tone for how I will approach Catholic morality. In keeping with the spirit of Vandeman, I have talked more about what I have learned from Catholics.

Second, in my next blog, I will look at some of the basic moral teachings of the Catholic church and talk about the similarities between Catholic and Adventist moral teaching and practices.

Third, I want to talk more candidly about the moral challenges I see Catholics having. Here, I use some of their own voices to raise issues about Catholics.

Fourth, I want to go down to some of the roots of moral theology by discussing some of the deeper differences between Adventist and Catholic moral theology, specifically related to the Sanctuary, Sabbath, and the Big 10 Commandments.  Here I want to challenge the deepest evil both Adventists and Catholics bring to their desire for morality: force and legalism.

Fifth, I use Jeremiah 18, Ezekiel 18 and Matthew 25 to talk about what it will be like for Catholics and Adventist to face God in the judgment.

I will be rolling these blogs out over this Christmas season, when Adventists and Catholics, like shepherds and wisemen, both come to worship the Christ Child. I believe, or at least I hope, that even though we come from different places in life, we want to follow Jesus.



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




2 Comments


  1. […] Morality Pt 2 I started this series sharing stories about Catholics I knew who were some of the most moral people I had ever met. They taught me a lot about […]


  2. […] is the last in a four part series on Catholic morality. In Post One I praised Catholics I knew who taught me about Christ and helped me get back in a right path with God. In Post Two, I […]



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