Catholics and the “Extra Stuff”

Recently I had a conversation with a close friend and non-Catholic. Talking about his family’s history in differing denominations, I soon found out that some of his relatives and ancestors are or were Catholic.

So I ask him plainly, “Why aren’t you Catholic, what made you decide otherwise?”

His answer was a very truthful and sincere, “I don’t need all the extra stuff. Some of my friends are Catholics, and they are happy with that but none of it matters for my salvation. What matters is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross and I can add nothing to that.”

A fine reply but I like to think that all our ancestors, if Christian at all before the 1540s, were Catholic. How do we respond to this?

Define what “extra” is.

If your objector is calling the teachings of the Catholic Church “extra,” he is relaxing their language. Others will call them “inventions.” Ask him to define these “extras” and “inventions,” and then challenge them. Ask him if he celebrates Christmas and Easter. Those aren’t found in the Bible, so why celebrate them? This happened recently. A work-mate asked me why we celebrate Christmas if Jesus didn’t, and why we celebrate Easter if Jesus didn’t. Was she really asking me if Jesus celebrated his own death, before he died? No; she was defeating her own argument by showing the difference between material sufficiency and formal sufficiency in the Bible. Positively, you are not going to find a Christian who will deny the Trinity or Easter, though they aren’t explicit in Scriptures.

For salvation and for perfection.

There are no works we can perform that add to the work of the Cross. We know that. But there are works that add to the perfection of our souls, a treasury of merit. Here, you might not be convincing them that Catholics are right about the “extras” but you can show them that certain rituals, festivals, and other practices can benefit and enhance the soul. Will you go to hell because you don’t cross yourself? No. Will you go to heaven if you do? No. Is it just as efficatious as other prayers? Yes.

On the celebrations and the like, ask him if celebrating Christmas and Easter matter for the ultimate salvation of a soul, or enhance the soul and bring closer communion and friendship with Lord.

They aren’t “extra stuff”.

There remain many other examples. Do we need to pray the Our Father? Do we need to confess at all? Should we even go to Church if “all we need is the Bible”? We are called to live our faith (Ephesians 4:1,James 2-14-26). By that charge, the only “extra” in the Christian life is something harmful to us and others.

If we are really the Body of Jesus Christ, not just a metaphor, how can anything we teach be extra?