On a large, wooden table just inside the front door of St. Mark sat some Christian brochures and a Bible. Seeing the Bible I thought immediately that one would never find a Bible laying about a Catholic church. Protestant churches are literally littered with Bibles; one finds them in every nook and cranny. One suspects they may even lose track of their Bibles! And Catholics don't have them, not in the pews, not in the vestibule and not in the hall. A Bible might be found only in the library, next to the catechisms.
The friend who invited me to these summer Sunday evening discussions of Methodism and Christianity was finally free to join me last night. I'd been attending without her, five weeks now. The discussion topics draw from questions submitted the first evening. Not surprisingly, Catholicism comes up regularly, presented so often as the contrast to Methodist doctrine. Given that pedagogical paradigm, is it any wonder Methodists feel at odds with Catholicism on every front?
One question was whether baptism is necessary for salvation. I watched a woman fold her arms and cross her legs when the question was announced. Maybe she had submitted the question and was bracing for the answer. But she already knew the answer. She was only seeking affirmation. She wasn't open-minded or teachable. The pastor confessed to having baptized four dead children in his days as a minister to satisfy grieving parents even though he believed it was unnecessary. That admission made me sick. He said a man asked him to baptize his dead brother before the latter's funeral but he declined. I wonder whether the fact that he knew neither man personally had something to do with his refusal. And Christian burial for the unbaptized?! The woman with the strong body language nodded knowingly to the woman on her right at some of the pastor's words. I can only guess she lost a child.
Next week, the last week, they'll get to my question on the state of ecumenism. Pastor began to address it a bit by saying that we deal in blanket statements and generalizations. And that we don't know each other or have conversations. He said that if he knew the local Catholic priest and was friendly with him, he would probably discover how much they have in common. I'm not sure what's stopping him from looked up Fr. Ian. But maybe it's just as well.