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emotionalism
Question from kim on 10/11/2001:

Recently, I was broadsided by a protestant with the accusation that Catholicism was somehow inferior to protestantism (of the fundamentalist variety) because we emphasize the intellectual over the emotional. In fact, I was told flat out that I was not "saved" because I did not acknowledge the necessity for an emotional conversion experience, nor had I ever had one, but that I claim to be a Christian merely because I intellectually acknowledge Jesus Christ as my Savior. I am fairly well-studied in apologetics, but this accusation left me stunned and speechless. I recall muttering something about "emtions being the devil's playground" and the importance for intellectual understanding of Jesus Christ and his role in salvation histsory, then the conversation took a different direction. I always thought that nearly every rational adult understood that to base something, anything, on emotion is dangerous. Can you give me some information that might provide me with a better explanation if this accusation surfaces again? I have always considered it a strength of our Faith that we do NOT emphasize emotional experiences as necessary for salvation and have never known anyone who openly praised "emotionalism" as a strength. Thanks for any light you can shed on this baffling philosophy.

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 10/19/2001:

Dear Kim,

You have happened to come upon a very key difference between the Catholic Church and some fundamentalist Protestants. The difference is in the attitude towards the emotions. For example, a Catholic believes that the priest is really another Christ who can change bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. For a Catholic the Host is Christ in reality, not merely a symbol. Now this is an act of faith in a truth as a reality. It may or may not be accompanied by strong feelings or emotions. Catholics who go to mass everyday are usually very quiet and reverent in Church in the face of the Host. The feelings may not be very loud or expressive. But they are very deep. Now fundamentalist Protestants do not have this kind of theology about the reality of the priest's power or the reality behind the host. Their sign of faith is not so much a conviction about the reality of a certain thing like the Host but a feeling that the Holy Spirit has inspired them. Without this feeling of inspiration, they often feel that the Holy Spirit in not in them. Maybe this gives you some insight into why there is such a different attitude between Catholics and some Protestant about the place of emotion in religious matters.

Dr. Geraghty

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