Archive for the 'Ecumenism' Category

Quote of the Day

Would Christianity, as regards truth and peace, faith and charity, fare worse, would it not fare better, without any Church at all, than with a thousand Churches, scattered through the world, all supreme and independent?

-Ven. John Henry Cardinal Newman

Stealing Sheep

Like Fr. Longenecker, I have great love and respect for my Evangelical friends and family. I will be forever grateful for the foundation that I received in Christianity from my upbringing. But, there is one aspect that, quite simply, enrages me. It’s the constant missionary efforts in Catholic lands. They operate under the assumption that Catholicism is not Christian. Granted, there are a whole lot of “cultural Christians” in Catholic countries who don’t know their faith at all, but if Evangelicals considered Catholics truly their brethren, then shouldn’t they be pushing us to get our act in gear?

554 years ago today

The New Rome fell. Go read Paul Cella’s moving account of the fall of Byzantium.

One thing he wrote is particularly apt in this age of schism upon schism:

A mass was said at Holy Wisdom on Monday, May 28; at last, in this final hour, Catholic and Orthodox joined together in worship of the Risen Lord. Greeks who had sworn oaths never to darken the doors of a church contaminated by Romish heretics heard liturgy next to Italians who had declared the Orthodox more loathsome than the infidel Turk. There, in that last agony of the Roman Empire, Christendom was unified, and the Church breathed with both her lungs. There, in the person of the ragged remnants of Constantinople’s defenders, the sons of the Church Universal joined in true fellowship. There, in this greatest of tragedies, and only at the bitter end, was a true Christian brotherhood of Greece and Rome.

Only when all material hope was lost did East and West reconcile. In the heat of battle, in the midst of struggle, petty divisions (and some not-so-petty ones) have a way of disappearing. I wonder if it will take more serious persecution again for us to realize that what we share–the Christian faith–outweighs disputes over the procession of the Holy Spirit, the charism of the Pope, or the nature of Original Sin.

Back to Beckwith…

Bangs head on desk.

We are not relying on the authority of private interpretation but upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Give thou me a break. The author really doesn’t get it. The crux of the Catholic critique of the Reformation is that “ministry of the Holy Spirit” inevitably devolves to private interpretation. There is no third option.

How not to convert run-of-the-mill Protestants

Classic rant by the Great Favog:

The little tips were good, too. Get ‘em to mass a lot, so they will know what they are missing.

The short theological exegesis of that “helpful tip” is as follows if you live in one of the great majority of Catholic parishes in these United States: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHA! HAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The long version is as follows: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! HAHAHAHA! HA! HA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HOO HOO HOO HOO!!!! HEE HEE HEE HEE HEE!!!!!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!! HAAAAAAAA!!! GAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!!! (Thud.)

Now, I will admit to having gone to, for example, Presbyterian (sorry!) services and telling Mrs. Favog afterward that “There’s no there there.” But that’s because I buy into the whole Catholic thing already.

How can a church service not seem lacking when you believe that, even at the crappiest, most rote, most non-reverent, Haugen-ditty-filled Catholic Mass, you have seen the priest make Jesus Christ — Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity — truly present on the altar? When you, despite all the worst modernity has wrought upon my suffering Church, still get to — as Walker Percy would say — “eat Christ,” doing exactly what Jesus, in John 6, said we must do to have life within us?
LIKE I SAID, I know what I would be missing because I’m already Catholic. I’ve already signed up for the Roman Life Assurance policy.

Your woebegone Protestant conversion target hasn’t yet. Get it?

All your average evangelical probably sees is a lackluster homily, music that’s at least as bad as their “praise and worship” stuff, most of the congregation going through the motions — at best — and little to no fellowship after all is said and “celebrated.”

Such as it is.
THE JOURNEY into Catholicism for many today is a journey precipitated by marriage or a relentlessly seeking intellect homing in on the Original Source Material of Christendom. Both are good things, very good things. Fine reasons to join the Church.

But you’ll probably end up frustrated if you’re really on fire for Christ. After all, how many converts are touting the vibrance of Catholic parish life or the extraordinary witness of most lay Catholics as being this mysterious, mighty, irresistable riptide that pulled them out into the Living Waters and toward that far bank of the Tiber River?

Until you get acclimated — and I really don’t know whether acclimated is a good thing or not — the serious convert barely may be restraining himself from jumping atop the pew (and be careful about this if you’re in a parish with chair-pews or movable pews) and screaming at his fellow parishioners.

“WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU PEOPLE!?! Don’t you realize the riches this Church possesses? Don’t you know that’s JESUS on the altar there? And with 2,000 years of Gregorian and Byzantine chant, and hundreds of years of classical hymnody, WHY ARE YOU SINGING THIS ST. LOUIS JESUITS S***?????

“Oh . . . pardon my French, Lord. Please forgive me.” (Slinks silently out of the sanctuary as people stare and Father shakes his head.)

ON THE OTHER HAND, I quite literally have been brought to tears of joy by the Holy Spirit at the most humble of Masses, liturgies unremarkable except for the humility and love with which they were celebrated.

This is in the midst of a tirade against a book published by Ignatius Press on how to convert Protestants. I must say that the whole idea of taking your Evangelical friends to Mass sounds wonderful, but Favog nails it. Most of my friends, if they didn’t already “buy the Catholic thing”, would cringe at our half-hearted worship, awful music, and milquetoast homilies. The Mass as celebrated in the vast majority of American parishes, without believing in the Blessed Sacrament, is not an evangelism tool. It’s a sure-fire turn-off.

Heck, my parents would probably be closer to being Catholic if I didn’t know that my musically-trained mother and hymn-loving father would simply laugh at our music, so therefore, I cringe at the thought of them attending the closest two parishes to their house…

Dr. Beckwith’s Interview with CT

Go read–right now–Francis Beckwith’s beautiful interview with Christianity Today. What good he is already doing.

(HT: Amy Welborn)

The dangers of apologetics

In the comments section of my post on the reaction to Dr. Francis Beckwith’s conversion, an interesting topic came up that I want to expand upon. I mentioned that I have essentially stopped doing Catholic apologetics because it has been harmful to my spiritual life. That is true, and I will expound on that, but I want to make a broader point: apologetics has a place, but it cannot be the primary focus of Catholic evangelism.

Back a couple of years ago, before I was actually received into the Church, when I was intellectually convinced but not emotionally ready to leave the Baptists, I helped moderate a discussion board run by a prominent ex-Evangelical Catholic apologist.* I think I’ve heard–and made–every argument known to man for Catholicism and against Protestantism, particularly in its fundamentalist variety. I’ve probably seen every prooftext thrown at Catholics by our separated brethren, and every Bible verse with which to reply to them. To use an analogy from popular film, I felt like Neo at the end of The Matrix when he realized he could control the Matrix, and fought an Agent with one arm, nonchalantly and serenely.

But, after stepping out of the world of apologetics, I realized something. After all those arguments, all those airtight syllogisms that proved the Fundamentalists wrong, I don’t remember ever hearing anyone say, “You know, Ed, you’re right. I’m wrong. I guess I should join the Catholic Church now.” Our blows did not pierce their armor. In my own case, I was already open to the Church before I ever started arguing with Catholics. That, I think, is the key: openness. If an opponent does not have a self-inflicted chink in his armor, he will not be convinced.

And, conversely, all these triumphalistic arguments that I and others made for the Church only served to create smugness. I had friends very concerned about me because of my sudden air of arrogance. I knew the Truth; I knew how to argue it; but, all I was doing is pushing people away. It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks when one of my best friends forced me to step back and look at my behavior. I stopped trying to convert everyone by argument; I started trying to be an example of living out the Faith instead of (or in addition to) arguing for it. My convert zeal had turned me into a Pharisee. I had replaced theological error with pride and arrogance; I’m not sure which one is worse.

So, is there a place for apologetics in the service of the Church? Absolutely. We’re surrounded by people who don’t understand the Church, and have created an absurd caricature in Her place. But, apologetics outside the context of friendship and relationships will fall on deaf ears. We will be more successful at drawing people into the Fullness of the Faith only if we are their friends first, only if we love them and serve them. Our arguments for the Truth are good, and are effective, but only he who has ears will hear.

Imagine, instead, an alternate scene in The Matrix where Neo and the Agent go out for coffee and discuss what humanity can offer to the robots. Wouldn’t that have been a different ending?

* I will not name him because of the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the departure of me and almost all his other moderators/administrators. We’ve all moved on, and it’s not worth going back to.