Monday, October 30, 2017

Did the Protestants win?

There is a provacative little article in the Wahington Post by a Lutheran working in various Catholic institutions entitled: The Reformation is over. Protestants won. So why are we still here? Is it true?

A Lutheran academic most probably only moves in rather restricted circles, possibly one should ask where have Protestants won? The question however provokes other questions.

Such as where do we find Catholicism?

Is it in the documents of VII, or the theology of Cardinals Cupich or Marx, or in an ecumenical gathering, or is it the congregation at weekday Mass or the Rosary Procession through London last week or is it in the millions today that would term themselves 'former Catholics' or 'of Catholic descent', who have turned their back on the Church and its teaching?

Who 'owns' or controls the Church?
Is it the 'possession' of the Pope and a small group vociferous twittering bishops, media savvy academic theologians and other clergy and journalists, or is something else?

I am no Church historian but it strikes me that Luther was the first 'theologian' in the modern sense, we had men like Aquinas and Bonaventure but they were quite different, they tried to make sense of an an already existing faith and explain it. In a sense their teaching persisted for centuries until it was actually taken up the Church, an example is Aquinas' use of 'Transubstantiation', it was only the Council of Trent that took it up as a philosophical explanation of the Real Presence, even now we can ask do we have to believe in a divide between 'substance' and 'accidents' to be a good Catholic or can we take it as analogy that explains why we prostrate before Blessed Sacrament and hold it as our greatest treasure and our contact point with God himself?

One could ague there have never been any Catholic theologians ever, even Newman (and Ratzinger at his best) were historians of theology rather than theologians in their own right, they, like good preachers tried to explain to their contemporaries an already existing faith (held always, everywhere and by all). If one follows this understanding of what a theologian is then all Catholic 'theologians' added nothing new but merely tried to bring out the treasure of the past and place it in the context of the present.

This is not what Luther or his contemporaries did, they invented something new, something personal. As soon as Protestantism emerges it is divided in itself. Luther has a different approach than Zwingli or Bucer or Calvin indeed they had savage disputes, they killed one another.

Luther himself said that before the Reformation there was one Pope sitting on seven hills, now every dung heap in Germany has its own Pope sitting on it. The creation of new 'churches' centred around particular theologians meant that princes were obliged to intervene for the sake of peace and order, so that religion became not something that somehow belonged to the people and bound them together but something imposed and regulated from above, by the 'prince'. I think until recently for example in England, atheist, nor-Christian, even Catholic Peers and Commons, actually had to vote on Church of England doctrine, and a non-Anglican, often non-believing, Prime Minister, in the name of the Queen, appointed its Bishops. Thus after the Reformation governments controlled what people believed, it became something imposed or something 'handed down', as opposed to something 'handed on'.

The Council of Trent, as a reaction to Protestantism for more or less the first time imposed a set of detailed doctrines on the glorious muddle of medieval Catholicism. Previous Councils had predominantly merely told the faithful what to avoid. Even then it is only with VII that the Catholicism becomes imposed from above, mainly in the liturgy of course, 'the Pope' or 'the Council wills it', became a standard phrase in post-Concilliar Catholicism, trumping Tradition or the feelings of ordinary Catholics, especially in liturgical 'reformation' of Vatican II was imposed with such destructive violence whereas so much else of VII was quietly rejected. For the first time the will of the Pope was seen as greater than the historic will of the rest of the Church, it seems to be attitude reaching it zenith in the present Papacy.

Authentic Catholicism is about a movement of the Spirit in the hearts of the faithful, expressed in worship and devotion. The more it is formalised, and taken away from what was taught at grandmother's knee, when it becomes the subject of documents, or individuals, even of Popes and Bishops the more Protestant it becomes, and I would suggest, therefore, the more empty our churches become.


Sixupman said...

My bishop put the empty churches down to "demographics" - I disagreed and am now persona non grata!

Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

Well, this explains a lot, Father. Thank you.

And now we lay Catholics who love the Church need to study and understand the faith as taught by Christ and the apostles so we can explain it to our children and friends.

It's a relief to know I don't have to become a theologian in order to pass on the faith and that, in fact, it might be an obstacle!

Anonymous said...

Father, as a convert of 4 1/2 years, I really do not know what to make of it. I hail from a long line of Methodist ministers and in my life and travels have worshipped and volunteered in Lutheran, Anglican and Reformed as well as evangelical groups.

I was told in my RCIA training that the "Spririt of V2" was a blip on the screen, a sort of rogue anomaly. But in fact, the "Spirit of V2" actually appears to BE the Catholic Church. Indeed, for someone with my extensive experience of Protestant groups, I can honestly say I see little difference in actual practice and belief {as opposed to official doctrine, tho that seems on the block now, too} between the CC and the Anglican Communion or Lutherans. Sure, there are differences, but they are fading fast as a sweeping Protestantisation now seems to control the Church.

For example, were I not to know the man Jorge Bergoglio was Pope, and all I did was read him, I'd see a Lutheran, hardly a Catholic in any normal sense of the term, unless by Catholic one means a Lutheran....

So we wait and see.

I attend an FSSP parish simply because I actually BELIEVE what I have read and been taught and see in action there. It is the Cathoic faith manifested in practice.

But what I see in the novus ordo world is the victory of Protestantism, the victory of Luther.

I do not know what to make of it.

motuproprio said...

It seems to be a misplaced ecumenism that sees the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster attending a service at Westminster Abbey to celebrate the Reformation, which caused the ghastly deaths of our English Martyrs and against which the Council of Trent issued its decrees. It does seem that we are all protestants now.

TomG said...

RodH, my wife and I are members of an FSSP parish in Baltimore, MD and regard it as both life-saving and faith-saving. The masses and sacraments are magnificently celebrated and administered. The homilies are like nothing I've ever heard before. I agree with you: I too don't know what to make of the NO world.

Woody said...

Dear Father, Professor Hauerwas, one of the most influential of modern philosopher/theologians in the US, and seemingly an intellectual relative of at least the "Radical Orthodoxy" movement in the UK, identifies himself as a Methodist, but worships at an Anglican church in North Carolina. A priest friend told me yesterday that his wife, to whom he refers in the article as "ordained" is an Episcopalian clergy person, thus very likely the underlying reason for his not (yet?) converting to Catholicism. of course, the other matters discussed in your article may very well be additional reasons for no conversion.

"Prof. Hauerwas is also known for his use of colorful language sometimes, as exemplified in this anecdote that I lifted from another website (which had in turn borrowed it from another):

Stanley Hauerwas was at Harvard to deliver a lecture and, being there early and still needing to do some preparation, he set out to find the library. Not finding it, he stopped a student and asked him, “Excuse me, where’s the library at?”

Incredulous, the student responded, “Sir, at Harvard we don’t end our sentences with a preposition.”

Stanley paused for a moment and then rephrased his question in a more grammatically appropriate manner: “Where’s the library at, asshole?”"

As a member of the Harvard Class of 1968, I can honestly report that I do not recall any of my classmates who would have bothered to correct a visiting professor's grammar, but still it is a fun story.

Highland Cathedral said...

Stanley Hauerwas says, “Most of the reforms Protestants wanted Catholics to make have been made. (Indulgences are no longer sold, for instance.)”
Well, for a start that’s a weak one. Despite Protestant wishful thinking (it keeps them smug to believe it) the Church never taught that indulgences could be sold. But what about other ‘reforms’? Yes, the liturgy is now in the vernacular. Communion is often under both kinds, altar rails have been destroyed. And as a result of the Council of Trent bishops are supposed to live in their dioceses and clerics should be properly qualified. Anything else? Priests still can’t marry.
The problem, of course, is that the so-called Reformation wasn’t really about reforming the Church. It was about changing the Church’s doctrines. And the doctrinal divisions created by the Protestant ‘Reformers’ are still with us today. In fact, it could be argued that they have increased. Just look at the Protestant ecclesial communities which promote so-called gay ‘marriage’.
Hauerwas says, “Over time, historians have helped us see that there was no one thing the Reformation was about, but that if there was a single characteristic at its heart, it was the recovery of the centrality of Christ for making sense of why Christians are not at home in this world. That emphasis turned out to be the overriding insight that shaped the work of Vatican II, meaning Catholics have overcome the major thrust of the Reformation.”
This is not history. This is fiction. Catholicism has always given Christ centrality. It didn’t take the Reformation to do that. It is absolute balderdash to imply that Catholics only discovered the centrality of Christ as a result of the Second Vatican Council.

vetusta ecclesia said...

Bergoglio's most recent Lutheranism is his announcement that works have no merit.

Left-footer said...

"a Lutheran working in various Catholic institutions"?

Am I the only person disturbed by this?

William Tighe said...

As Woody wrote, above, Prof. Hauerwas ia a Methodist, not a Lutheran, and his wife is an Episcopalian (Anglican) priestess.

Jeremiah Methuselah said...

@woody : "but still it is a fun story". Maybe, maybe not, but it is certainly way beyond tasteless to post it on a very Catholic site and does nobody any favours.

Nicolas Bellord said...

I would have thought that what we are witnessing is the death of Protestantism. Those parts of the Catholic Church that have adopted Protestantism are dying as well.

JARay said...

I agree with Nicholas Bellord

Paul Hellyer said...

Thank you Fr. You have certainly helped my Faith.

Unknown said...

You ask the question "Did the protestants win". When you see Cardinal Nichols take part in a ceremony in Westminster Abbey to commemorate Martin Luther and the protestant revolt then it would appear the answer is yes.There are many more in the church in high places that have also embraced the protestant revolution. However in spite of them the protestants will not win as Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church.We are in the middle of a war against the Church and the protestants are winning some of the battles but we have the weapons to defeat them namely the Traditional Mass and the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Cressida de Nova said...

I pray that Rod George is right. We are promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.It is devastating to Catholics that too many of the Church leaders have betrayed their flock and their faith continuing to perpetrate Protestant heresy.We are undergoing a crisis in the Church. The laity must show their loyalty by only attending Mass celebrated by genuine Catholic priests who have an understanding of Church dogma and tradition. If extra travel is involved this is a small price to pay for the survival of our faith. God Bless and restore sanctity to our Church!

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