There are those who would have us believe that the Catholic Church is a fundamentalist faith. Those who think this often do because the Catholic Church holds staunchly to Her beliefs; and the Church’s beliefs tend to be on the conservative side. The Church does not officially endorse certain views that many consider to be liberal. One great example is evolution. The Church doesn’t endorse evolution, but neither does She condemn it carte blanche.
The Catholic Church, despite Her conservative leanings, however, can not be considered a Fundamentalist Christian sect. Fundamentalist Christians tend to reject scientific findings, and they believe in the “Young Earth Theory”. They accept this theory due to a far too literalistic interpretation of some of the biblical genealogies, and the ages given for some of the earliest people named in the Bible. The Catholic Church does not take such a literalistic view of Scripture. The Church understands the genealogies not to be exhaustive.
In the New Testament both Luke and Matthew give genealogical lists for Jesus. These lists, however, skip generations. Thus, one can not take them as exhaustive, complete genealogies. Similarly, the Catholic Church does not take a literalistic approach to the ages of some of the Patriarchs. Does the Bible actually mean that Adam lived to be over 900 years old? It might, but we do not know. One could take this metaphorically.
The Catholic Church can not be considered a Fundamentalist sect, because She was founded by Jesus Christ. The Fundamentalist sects were founded much, much later, by other human beings. The Bible itself testifies to the Catholic Church’s divine origin. She is simply the Church. Jesus intended only the Catholic Church to exist, not tens of thousands of Christian sects. This being so, the Catholic Church is not a sect.
Finally, the Catholic Church can not be considered a Fundamentalist sect, because the Fundamentalists are called such due to their emphasis on certain “fundamental” teachings from the Bible. Among these teachings that Fundamentalists accept, and the Catholic Church rejects, are sola fides and sola scriptura. These teachings are not biblical, but they are essential to the Fundamentalist sects.
The Catholic Church is not Fundamentalist, because She does not accept that there are only certain beliefs which are fundamental. Though Catholics can believe whatever they want in matters on which the Church has not defined, everything on which the Church has defined is absolutely essential. These Teachings deal with what is true. Everything taught by Christ, and defined by His Church, is true. Hence, all of these things must be believed. What is true is essential. Any follower of Christ should be willing to all that Christ taught.
No, the Catholic Church is not fundamentalist.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity