The Roman Catholic is the product of a highly complex religious system that seeks to control his thought-life as carefully as it controls his conduct. The care is beneficent—from the Catholic perspective. And it answers deep religious needs. Unfortunately, it is often acutely binding for the individual Catholic. And this should be recognized by those who desire to lead him into the full freedom of the Gospel.
Although the Catholic Church’s tyrannical domination of its constituency is being challenged more and more, very few would argue that it has been thrown off to any significant degree or that it will be in the near future. Some new freedom has emerged from the Second Vatican Council pronouncements, but the church continues to keep tight reins upon the faithful. Champ at the bit though they may, liberals will remain harnessed to the unchangeable doctrines and basic disciplines of the Roman Catholic Church, unless they bolt away in wild pursuit of unbounded theological freedom.
The soul-life of Roman Catholics is regulated by many dos and don’ts. That most of them are docile to this spiritual confinement speaks on the one hand of the great success of this religious system and, on the other, of the strong need of the Catholic mind to be guided in the pursuit of salvation.
The real “power of the keys” lies in the system. “It is we alone,” the Roman Catholic pontiff and his colleagues could say, “who must show you the way to salvation. God has so decreed it, through Jesus Christ our mystical Head. We have received from him the exclusive right to be your guide and mentor into the Kingdom. And since salvation is never assured until the very end of your life, you must labor for it under our benevolent hand, follow our counsels ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more