NON-sectarians enjoyed phenomenal growth through the 1970s and 1980s when Fundamentalists, Pentecostals, and Evangelicals convinced a lot of Catholics with their twin-pitch of Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone) and Sola Fidei (Faith Alone). Everyone knows a relative or friend who abandoned the faith of his youth for so-called authentic Christianity hooked by zealous preachers who claim the Bible is the sole authority on matters of the soul.
For sure, many fallout Catholics are sincere individuals who failed to find spiritual nourishment in the Church. Disenchantment with clergy is often a cause — lack of priests passionate about the Gospel, homilies with sense, ignorance of Scriptures, inadequacy to ably explain doctrines and liberal outlook. This is aggravated by loss of the sense of the sacred in clergy, shabbily attired and indistinguishable in public, worldly behavior and frequent involvement in politics. Yet an imperfect clergy is never reason for leaving the Church, not even scandal – you don’t abandon Peter and the Apostles because of Judas.
Laymen make matters worse by ridiculing the Church and disagreeing with its teachings. Have these “Catholics” really ever checked the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) or read a single papal encyclical? Catholics are expected to share, not question, their faith. Our Pope expressed we should always be ready to render an explanation (cf 1 Pet 3:15). The harvest is rich but the average Catholic is oddly hesitant to learn doctrines, lamely excusing himself, “Nariyan naman si Father… Pang pari lang iyan…” and the classic cop-out, “Nagsisimba naman ako.” Thus, the generally uncatechized are easily lured out of the Church when clergy fall short.
“Bible Alone!” cries the non-sectarian followed by a steady barrage of selected verses and the ordinary Catholic, ignorant and speechless, soon gets convinced the Bible is the only authority.
Where does the Bible say “Bible Alone?” Who interprets the Bible? Why are Bible Christians fragmented into over 32,000 distinct denominations with respective mini-popes in a cacophony of inconsistent doctrines, and further dividing? A number of which approve abortion, contraception, divorce and remarriage, euthanasia, gay marriages, all in Christ’s name! Until 393, there was no Canon of Sacred Scripture. There were no bibles, in fact, for centuries within laymen’s reach. The rare existing copies were hand-written; laboriously penned by clerics word-for-word, line-per-line, page-by-page, taking months to complete a single Bible until printing was invented in the 16th century. Besides few could read.
A fundamental reason for today’s deteriorating morals is the question of authority. Where is it found in a disharmonious, generic Christendom? Can Christians effectively witness to the world in glaring disunity? Is the Bible the authority or the Church that composed the Bible? A logical deduction from Luther’s own admission, even as he denied Church authority should provide the answer: “We are obliged to yield many things to the Papists [Catholics] that they possess the word of God, which we received from them otherwise we should know nothing about it.”
Jesus prayed for unity at the Last Supper, so that the world may believe. He established His Church on Peter and gave him and the Apostles authority to teach truth in a mandate carried through centuries to the present Pope in the Apostolic Church. “Go and make disciples of all nations …he who hears you hears me …he who listens to you listens to me…” (Matthew 18:15).