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Are Protestant Communities “Churches”?

john-calvinIn our last article, we demonstrated how Dr. Alan Schreck, as many orthodox Catholics do, erroneously applies the hermeneutic of discontinuity to the use of the terms “heresy” and “heretic” before Vatican II and the non-use of those terms in the Council. We will now do likewise with the term “church” as it was used before and at Vatican II.

Dr. Schreck, after praising Vatican II for abandoning the use of the word “heretic” in reference to Protestants, also added: “Not only do Catholics recognize these baptized believers as Christians, but at Vatican II the Catholic church officially recognized for the first time the bodies to which these Christians belong as ‘churches and (ecclesial) communities.’” [page 204] Rather than seeing “churches” and “ecclesial communities” as two different terms being applied to two different situations and groups, he makes them out to be synonymous and to be applied to all, as is evident from his use of the term “Protestant church[es]” which he uses twice more going forth.

Although in the last article we were not able to get into the footnotes, we will do so here. As in the previous matter, the Council Fathers were also careful to footnote seemingly revolutionary statements. A footnote was inserted after the word “Churches” (“but not ecclesial communities”), and it refers to three ecumenical councils — the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 [Constitution IV], the Second Council of Lyons from 1274 [Profession of Faith of Emperor Michael Palaiologi], and the Council of Florence held in 1439. [Session VI] In the citation from Lateran IV, the council refers to the schismatic East as the “Greek church”, while in the Council of Florence, the proclamation of union refers to the schism as “the wall that divided the western and the eastern church”.

Dr. Schreck, in a previous book, Catholic and Christian, explained that from the beginning, the word “church” was used not only to refer to the one universal church or body of believers, but was also used synonymously with “diocese” or “parish” to refer to a local church or body of believers under a bishop or a pastor. Hence we can and often do speak about the “Church in Saskatoon” to refer to the Saskatoon diocese, or the “Church in Estevan” to refer to St. John the Baptist parish in my hometown.

But the term has also been used on a much broader scale to refer to a conference of bishops or to the bishops in a particular region or country. Hence we can and often do speak of the “Canadian Church” to refer to those dioceses under the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), or “the Church in North America” (or the Church in Asia or the Church in Africa as Pope John Paul II did in a series of apostolic exhortations), or, as has been done since the second century, refer collectively to the Latin-speaking dioceses as the “Western Church” and the Greek-speaking dioceses as the “Eastern Church”. These terms continued to be used by the Catholic Church even after the schism.

Because the Eastern communions have preserved valid orders and a valid episcopate, the territories ruled by their bishops remain local or “particular churches”, even though these some of these particular churches are no longer in communion with the Bishop of Rome and, by extension, the Catholic Church.  At Vatican II, the Magisterium chose to speak of the Eastern Church in the plural, as the Eastern Churches, for two reasons: first, because there are other particular churches which have preserved valid orders, (such as the Nestorian churches in the East) and second because, in order to prevent the confusion seen with Dr. Schreck, namely that that it is possible to have a “church” without valid orders or valid apostolic succession.

Thus, if Dr. Schreck is correct that there has been a “radical departure” (which there has not been), it is a change in the opposite direction — from referring to the Eastern Orthodox collectively as a “Church” to speaking of them as a collection of local churches or dioceses/eparchies separated from Rome.

This was all made clear by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in the year 2000 when it issued Dominus Iesus, a document correcting various misunderstandings that had arisen in the area of ecclesiology because of the application of the hermeneutic of discontinuity. Seven years later, the CDF issued an even more explicit response to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church.  The response from the CDF affirms that it remains true and a valid teaching of the Church that “the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church” but that the word “subsists in” was used at Vatican II in order to better indicate that elements of truth and sanctification, such as baptism and Holy Scripture, are efficaciously used in communions which are separated from the one Church of Christ through schism or heresy.

The CDF went on to answer the question, “Why does the Second Vatican Council use the term ‘Church’ in reference to the oriental [Eastern Orthodox] Churches separated from full communion with the Catholic Church?” The answer begins with a restatement of the passage in Unitatis Redintegratio which used the term and explained the rationale for it, and then added, “The Council wanted to adopt the traditional use of the term”. In other words, the Council was not stating something “for the first time” in some “radical departure” but was employing a term in line with its “traditional use”.

Not only does Dr. Schreck make this error with regards to the Eastern Orthodox, but he also falsely states that Vatican II called Protestant bodies “churches and ecclesial communions”. However, the Magisterium gave and still gives two very different definitions to both of these terms, and applies “churches” only to those mentioned earlier (valid episcopate and orders), while the term “ecclesial communions” is reserved for the Protestant bodies. In Dominus Iesus, the CDF declares that “the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery [ie. Protestant communions], are not Churches in the proper sense”. (paragraph 17) This was also stated in the 2007 response — two years after Dr. Schreck revised and re-published his book under a different title, but with the same errors.

If we are to fully and properly implement Vatican II, we must not use it in isolation but read it in light of the broader Tradition of the Church. Dr. Schreck and other orthodox Catholics must heed the advice of St. Vincent of Lerins in his Commonitorium — a book that is a must-read today in order to avoid the errors of isolating Vatican II from the tradition — who begins his work by citing Moses: “Ask thy fathers, and they will declare to thee: thy elders and they will tell thee.” (Deuteronomy 32:7)

Go to Part I.


Wade St. Onge received a Masters degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is the self-published author of New Things and Old: Re-Implementing Vatican II, and An Acceptable Sacrifice: Reforming the Liturgical Reform, and is currently working on a manuscript entitled, Inquire of the Fathers: The Theology of the Body Debate and the Ignorance of Tradition. He blogs at The Ivory Tower, and lives in Saskatchewan, Canada.
  • David C.

    The Catholic Church has no monopoly on the word Church or Christians. Please don’t sow more discord. We are all Christians if baptized and pray to the same Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    • The issue is not whether or not a baptized individual is a Christian. Everyone acknowledges that, if you are baptized validly, you are a Christian.

      The question instead is, “do these groups of validly baptized individuals constitute a church?” According to the Bible, a Church is led by a Bishop, and has the ability to celebrate the Eucharist.

      If a group not in communion with Rome is a Church, then the approach is far different in ecumenical matters if they are not a Church. The Eastern Churches of the Orthodox are truly Churches. Protestant communities are not. So what you can do with the Orthodox (limited intercommunion in case of emergencies, the existence of a hierarchy once full communion is established) is far more varied than what you can do with Protestants (intercommunion never permitted, no sacramental hierarchy to reconcile with, etc.)

      It isn’t a matter of who has a monopoly on this or that term. If ecumenism is to be anything more than a vague buzz word of indifferentism (and many like it that way), then you need to make a realistic assessment of your dance partners.

      • David C.

        Why the orthodox ? They don’t believe in a Pope or in the Eucharist as Catholic’s do. Many of the things they believe is in direct opposition to Rome. Also the bible never states that a Bishop must lead the church. Saint Paul was not a bishop and celebrated the Eucharist. But Anglicans have bishops and the Eucharist and now you admit them into the church.

        • The Orthodox do believe in the Eucharist just as we do. As far as the question of the Bishop of Rome, the question more often than not isn’t if Rome has a primacy, but how it is exercised. but even granting their rejecting our notion of the papacy, they still have a valid episcopate and priesthood.

          And actually the Bible is quite clear that a Church has to be led by a Bishop. It’s why Paul installed Titus and Timothy over Crete and Ephesus, respectively. From the beginning, those Bishops found it important to show their roots in Apostolic succession. Every Bishop today can trace those roots.

          One can nuance over whether or not Paul was a “bishop” since technically bishops are SUCCESSORS to the Apostles, but we do know that if you were an Apostle, you were given episcopal authority, as was the case with Matthias.

          Anglicans have neither a valid episcopate, apostolic succession or a Eucharist. Those orders were declared infallibly invalid by Leo XIII in Apostolicae Curae, and reaffirmed in 2007 by the CDF. That isn’t just the position of the Catholic Church, but also the position of the Orthodox as well, albeit for slightly different reasons. (See Kallistos Ware)

          This was all before the ordination of women, acceptance of homosexual sex, abortion, contraception, etc.

          This really isn’t just my position. If you are a Catholic, you have to believe these things about the Orthodox. They are true Churches, and Anglicans/Protestants aren’t. It’s the view of the Bishop of Rome, whom all must be in agreement with. (St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies)

          • David C.

            The Orthodox do not believe the same as the Catholics on the Eucharist. They do not believe in transubstantiation. There are other issues with Mary that they disagree on. Please look it up.

          • Actually I did look it up
            http://oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith/worship/the-sacraments/holy-eucharist
            They explicitly state the Eucharist is Christ’s body and blood. The only difference is they don’t use Aristoletean philosophical constructs.
            They don’t actually describe “how” the change occurs. But they have always said that there is a change in SUBSTANCE during the liturgy. As a result of that change, the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.

            The Greek call that Metousiosis, or “change in essence or reality.” Before the concepts of accidents and substance existed in the West, that was actually the term a lot of Fathers used to describe what happened in the Eucharist.
            I hate to sound flippant, but this is theology and apologetics 101. Even the Protestants understand that on the Eucharist, there’s no difference between the Catholic and Orthodox position.
            As far as Mary, more often than not, what is debated is semantics, not reality. Take the Assumption, or as the East define it, Dormition. Both believe that Mary was taken to heaven, and that it would smack of impiety to believe Mary’s body would remain on Earth. The only question was did Mary die? The East hold she did, while the West, while generally holding she did not, actually allows both.
            With the Immaculate Conception, there’s some difference, but it’s mainly over how everyone defines “sin” and “concupisence.” When you take that into account, there’s actually a lot of common ground, and Eastern Catholics in union with Rome accept the doctrine, albeit in light of their Eastern sensibilities.
            With the Perpetual Virginity of Mary, they hold the exact same thing we do. The main difference is who the “brethren of the Lord” are. But they do not teach they were Mary’s biological children.
            The areas where there are diversion is mainly over whether or not the Marian dogmas of Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix should be defined as binding upon the consciences of Catholics. Given the Church hasn’t defined it, and there are very good reasons for her not to define as such, that doesn’t really count.
            As I said, I really hate to be flippant, but you have absolutely no clue what you are talking about here.

          • Pax

            Much of what the orthodox believe is basically a time capsule of what Roman Catholics believe. Most orthodox would claim that it was not possible for any dogma to be defined by any bishops group that did not include the bishops of both east and west. So for instances they would not consider the console of Trent , Vatican I or Vatican II to be binding on the faithful. So before Aquinas everyone agreed one what happened during the mass but disagreed on how. The orthodox would probably consider the how as non-binding.

            There communion, is true communion with God and if and only if you are unable to get to a Roman Catholic church , you may attend a Orthodox church for the purpose of meeting your Sunday obligation to attend mass. The same is NOT true form any a group that has theological roots derived from the reformation, because although many of them celebrate ‘the lords supper’ they do not understand it as being a sacrifice , or in actually understand it at all.

          • Martin Miranda

            Apostolic succession? Where is that in the Scriptures? I read a Scripture version with the imprimatur and could not find it. There is no such thing based on the Word of God. It is just an example of tradition hogwash based on ideas of men but not originated in the mind of God.

          • Martin Miranda

            If every one must be in agreement with the Bishop of Rome, why the apostle Paul reported to James, the brother of Jesus in JERUSALEM? Why he did not report to Peter? Why Peter himself reported to James? Read the book of Acts in the Scriptures, not St. Irenaeus or St. Augustine.- they are not inspired.

      • DianaG2

        Thank you.

    • Wade St. Onge

      David, your feel-good catch phrase fails to invalidate my argument, and ignores the nuanced approach i took to the term that was the sunject of the article.

      “Please don’t sow more discord”, you say. Are you telling me that we should allow the perpetuation of false ideas? Re-read “Unitatis Redintegratio” – for true ecumenism to exist, each side must fully present their particular beliefs and not conceal anything in an attempt to make dorporate reunion less difficult. That is what i am doing. What about you?

      • Wade St. Onge

        I’ll save you the time of having to re-read the entire document: paragraph .11. The way and method in which the Catholic faith is expressed should never become an obstacle to dialogue with our brethren. It is, of course, essential that the doctrine should be clearly presented in its entirety. Nothing is so foreign to the spirit of ecumenism as a false irenicism, in which the purity of Catholic doctrine suffers loss and its genuine and certain meaning is clouded.

  • Did you flunk out of class at FUS? “Rather than seeing “churches” and “ecclesial communities” as two different terms being applied to two different situations and groups, he makes them out to be synonymous and to be applied to all, as is evident from his use of the term “Protestant church[es]” which he uses twice more going forth. -” no he does not! Stop miss representing his words. That is how you wish to use his words. Its perfectly acceptable to say protestant churches. No, they might not be churches in a Catholic sense but its the common language of reference. Are going to write an article on all the popes who called them churches as well

    • When dealing with the actual doctrinal texts, they are not called “churches.” As a colloquial it might have been used, but a book presenting the faith should probably abstain from colloquial statements.

      Nonetheless, you are free to demonstrate how he uses his words, and where he explicitly says Protestant communities are not churches in the sense of the Catholic/Orthodox understanding of the term.

    • Wade St. Onge

      I didn’t flunk out at FUS but i was docked marks twice by Dr. Schreck because I stated things in papers that were perfectly Catholic but that rub certain charismatic Catholics the wrong way.

      He is not the only one at FUS who has applied the hermeneutic of discontinuity – when I told a religious sister professor with a doctorate in catechetics that celibacy was superior to marriage, I received a strange look, was asked where i was getting that from, and when I told her she replied that “this has changed” since Vatican II. I reported this to the Theology Chair that this was a violation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae, but I do not know if he ever corrected her.

      Dr. Schreck did not merely refer to “Protestant churches” because it was a common language of reference. Rather, he is asserting that Vatican II itself teaches that Protestant communions are “churches” – something that cannot ne found in the Magisterial corpus, either before or since Vatican II. As an aside, the idea of properly referring to Protestant communities as “churches” as a common language of reference is itself an example of the hermeneutic of discontinuity; to wit, of applying our own preferences and notions without anything from the Catholic tradition to support it.

      Wade St. onge

    • Wade St. onge

      “Its perfectly acceptable to say protestant churches … Are [you] going to write an article on all the popes who xalled them churches as well”. I will if you can cite and quote some examples of Popes who called them Protestant churches. Is that a deal?

      • goral

        “It was fascinating that Pope Francis opened his teaching by rejecting a narrow view that the Church is “restricted to the clergy or the Vatican ”. He pointed out that we are “all the Church, all family, all of the Mother.”
        Quote taken from a previous CL article.

        I may be wrong but going by what the Pope has been teaching so far, he would call them Protestant churches.

        • Yeah, you’d definetly be wrong. He’s simply pointing out that all baptized individuals belong to the Church Jesus Christ founded. They may not be visibly united to it, but by rights, they should be.
          Now that’s entirely different from the matter at hand here. Here we are talking about Churches Sui iuris, or a Church in their own right. This refers to a very precise definition of a “particular church” that requires a valid priesthood (for the Eucharist) and episcopal hierarchy. These Churches, when in communion with the Roman Pontiff, comprise the Catholic (universal) Church.
          Then you have the case of those Churches which at one time were in communion with Rome, but for one reason or another, no longer are. Even though this full communion broke down, they maintained a valid apostolic succession and Eucharist/Sacraments.
          This is worlds different than Protesantism, which, technically speaking, is that dreaded H word: heretical. It has a set of doctrines that the universal church and tradition of the fathers have long rejected. They lack valid orders. They lack a valid eucharist. They lack apostolic succession. As a result ecumenical discussion is going to be worlds different than ecumenical discussion with one of the particular churches. That is exactly what we see.

          • goral

            You may be right regarding the Pope’s use of the word “church” as referring to communities. We all have used the word that way, ex. Congregational churches.
            My issue with our Obama style pope has been his imprecise use of language when he speaks publicly. I don’t think he should get a pass on that as it is precisely his job to communicate the Faith as clearly as possible.
            He now has a track record of actions which the faithful find to be worrisome. His apologies, his left leanings and his disrespect for his own sheep and shepherds.
            Here’s a quote:

            “In Francis the collegiality of governance
            is more evoked than practiced. The style is that of a superior general
            of the Jesuits who in the end decides everything on his own.”

            Yet there are people out there who seem to know precisely what he means and they want to chide us on
            our theological dificiency. Your use of the word “definitely” signals that you hold some title in the Holy Office – CDF., or in some capacity on the advisory board as a post pre-school theologian. How else could you be that adamant?

          • I can be that adamant because the definition is pretty crystal clear. All one has to do is read Dominus Iesus:

            “Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him. The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches. Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.

            On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.”

            I really don’t get how you can be any clearer. Valid Eucharist and Apostolic Succession = A Church. Invalid Eucharist and no succession = ecclesial community. There’s a magesterial difference between the two. You can read the CCC, paragraphs 832-838 which says the same thing.

            There are times where things can be ambiguous. They aren’t here. It’s more or less if the person wants to take the time to learn what the Church teaches or not.

          • goral

            Your response is Christal clear,
            but that is not the issue here.
            The frightening topic of the day,
            is the Holy Father having his say
            with such a Vatican 2 display,
            as to have a Catholic
            cry in his beer.

            A little pre-school, poetry and
            unlike Francis, no apologies for it.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Who are YOU to call Protestants heretics, Mr . Tierney? Every time I hear (or read.) a catholic utter/write the word”heretic”, the first word I think of is, you guessed it: Inquisition . Neither you, the pope, nor the roman catholic church are anyone’s Saviour, God, nor Judge, sir, and you would do well to remember that. The arrogance of catholicism is astonishing; WHO put YOU in charge of Almighty God, Mr . Tierney?? I can say this to you and those of your ilk: I am proud to be a”heretic” in the sense of the word’s original meaning, that is, I made the choice to follow My Saviour, instead of blindly submitting to men—JESUS IS LORD! !

          • Very easy:

            To be a heretic, as you mentioned, is to “choose.” In this sense, it is to choose which aspects of Divine Revelation one follows, and which one does not.

            While one should be careful to ascribe to any individual the charge of heresy (unless there is an obstinate heart), one can safely say there are communities which believe heretical things. While indeed the Church is not our Savior, Christ did give the Church the authority to decide these matters, since “he who hears you hears me”, and because the Church upholds the Gospel as the pillar and foundation of the truth. I suppose you are trying to make us feel bad about the Inquisition.

            That really won’t work. Next.

      • “I will if you can cite and quote some examples of Popes
        who called them Protestant churches. Is that a deal?”

        Deal.

        2000–Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the CDF, publishes Dominus Jesus

        2004—Pope St. John Paul II addresses the Roman Curia
        December 24 and says:
        “5. Let us give thanks to God because at various levels the
        ecumenical endeavour is gathering momentum, thanks to constant contacts, meetings and initiatives with our brethren of the different Orthodox and Protestant Churches and Ecclesial Communities. In this context, the visits from
        some of their distinguished representatives which I have received this year acquire exceptional significance….”

        2005—Pope Benedict meets with the diocesan clergy of
        Aosta on July 25 and says:
        “On the other hand, the sects that present themselves with the certainty of a minimum of faith are growing, and the human being seeks certainty. Thus, the great Churches, especially the great traditional Protestant Churches, are truly finding themselves in a very deep crisis. The sects have the upper hand because they appear with a few simple certainties and say: “This suffices”…..”

        AND “…The plight of the Catholic Church is not as bad as that
        of the great Protestant Churches of history, but of course, she shares the problem of our historical period.”

        And later he says in the same address: “We know the problem, not only of the Protestant Communities but also of the Orthodox Churches, which are often presented as a model for the possibility of remarriage. But only the first marriage is sacramental…”

        2006—In a general audience on December 6, Pope Benedict
        says:
        “My Visit ended, just before departing for Rome, with my
        return to the innermost “circle”, in other words, my meeting with the Catholic Community, all of whose members were present in the Latin Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Istanbul.
        The Ecumenical Patriarch, the Armenian Patriarch, the
        Syrian-Orthodox Metropolitan and Representatives of the Protestant Churches were also taking part in this Holy Mass.
        In short, all Christians, in the diversity of their traditions, rites and languages, were gathered together in prayer.”

        Raising the question: The argument made in this post against Dr. Schreck apparently must apply to both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI?

        • I should add, though, that I think the JPII citation I mention might well be explained by English translation of, perhaps, Italian word order…but I’m not so sure the same can be said about the word choice of Benedict above. Although Benedict clearly makes the proper distinction between “Protestant Communities” and “Orthodox Churches” at the end of that address, I’d be inclined to see this address as a papal example of the use of “church” with less technical precision than he uses elsewhere in his magisterium…

        • Wade St. Onge

          Excellent. I could turn this into an article, but not in the vein you are expecting.

          In the quote from JPII on Dec 24, 2004, he is referring to the Orthodox as Churches and Protestants as ecclesial communions – he is not conflating the two as you and Dr. Schreck seem to want to do.

          In the quote from Benedict on July 25, 2005, it is interesting to note that a few paragraphs earlier, he says, “I would like, as far as I can, to respond briefly to your words, Your Excellency; but I would also like to say that the Pope is not an oracle, he is infallible on the rarest of occasions, as we know. I therefore share with you these questions, these queries.”

          So in my article, I would speak about papal infallibility, levels of authority among the different documents and audiences of the Pope, and the potential for error or theological imprecision.

          If the Pope sometimes uses the term “Protestant Churches” as a common language of reference, at least when it suits the context (as it did on July 24th, with Benedict beginning that thread by speaking of the “mainline churches” which he referred to with the popular expression, “the so-called ‘great’ Churches”, to quote him), then who am I to object?

          That said,

          1. It is clear, from the fact that Cdl. Ratzinger signed Dominus Iesus, that Protestant communions cannot be called “churches” in the theological sense, and

          2. There is a reason why Popes almost always use the term “ecclesial communion” in reference to Protestantism, and that it is dangerous and in fact erroneous to refer to them as “churches” on a regular basis as Dr. Schreck does.

          • Well, I don’t have a real dog in this hunt–I’m with you entirely on the theological precision required by the *Church’s* own understanding of the term “church”–and there are many examples of papal use of that precision. It’s just that in the larger arena, as we all seem to agree, there is a “colloquial” definition of “church” that most people are comfortable with (particularly those who are not Catholic, I’d guess). And the Benedict example seems to be one in which he “goes there” even though he himself is fully aware of (and later uses) the precise terms demanded by Catholic self-understanding. Anyway–good to chat with you in the friendly confines of Catholic Lane–I’ll try to keep up with your posting here.

          • Wade St. Onge

            Thanks Deacon Jim. I do think we are pretty much in agreement here.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Thank you, Mr.Russell.I AM a Protestant, and I consider myself to be in the Church of which Christ is the Head of; frankly, I don’t much care how others define”church”.Christ the Lord is my Saviour, Lord, King and Judge and on THAT I take my stand.

  • Pax

    some good further reading.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/documents/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20011117_kasper-prolusio_en.html

    My summary for the lazy reader , protestant churches are NOT churches in the way and sense that Catholics use the word church but that is OK, If you are talking to non Catholics you have to be sympathetic to the fact they have an entirely different understanding ( aka respectfully a wrong one) of what the word means.

  • guest

    I think God laughs at all this theological hairsplitting. Protestant Christians are His children, too. They have the Holy Spirit and are our brothers and sisters in Christ, heirs to all the promises of Christ. He loves them no less than Catholic Christians. The main thing for all Christians is the relationship to Christ. Not knowing what transubstantiation means, or the difference between church and ecclesial community, is no hindrance to salvation; after all salvation is not a written exam.

    • But belief necessarily implies a certain set of behavior. Saying that doctrine is not necessary more or less adopts a position that is impossible to reconcile with the Bible and with Tradition. I would even say it cheapens our separated brethren, telling them their cherished beliefs are pointless.

      The issue is not about if God loves one person more than the other. The answer is obviously no. God loves the Catholic, the Protestant, the Muslim, the Hindu, and the atheist equally. that doesn’t mean that they because of this fact are going to heaven.

      For us, to claim communion with Christ but to reject His Church is not to follow Christ. While we should never speculate on the ramifications of such a decision (for that is indeed for God to judge and not us), we can only say and demonstrate that the Universal Catholic Church is the Church Jesus Christ founded, and that one is a part of that Church by not just professing belief in the Gospel, but by being in communion with the successors of the Apostles, headed by the successor to Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

      • guest

        Your view is unnecessarily complicated. Faith and right behavior don’t depend on knowledge of doctrine. This I truly know. Our brothers and sisters in Christ in the other churches belong to the Universal Christian Church just as much as we Catholics. They too have the same Holy Spirit we do. God does not favor us over them. I once heard a priest say he saw some Protestants doing more than he was doing to build up the body of Christ. It was a real eye opener for him. Catholics don’t have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit. Other Christians ( No one wants to be called a non-Catholic.) are easily in communion with the successors of the Apostles by virtue of their baptism and the Holy Spirit so obviously at work in their lives. These people don’t need to be told they’re spiritually deficient in any way. It has been my observation that they witness Christ just as well, or better, than Catholics do. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. We should always focus on love first.

        • Pax

          It is a sin to not not attend the mass of the lords supper on every Sunday. Do protestants do that? Of coarse not because they believe it is necessary, the fact they don’t still denies them the grace of the sacraments. Those graces that can help the good be so much better. So there are consequences for sins, even if we don’t know we are sinning.

          It is a sin to ignore and not whole heatedly attempt in humility to understand and agree with the teachings of the bishops and popes. Including the teaching on birth control, which has been ignored by so many leading us to a culture were abortion and gay marriage are now considered good and healthy and holy by many.

          Those are just two of many examples that show, what we believe informs what we do, and what we do and be both sinful and harmful to use, weather we know it is evil or not.

          Just because Jesus forgives us for doing what is wrong, doesn’t make it any less wrong or it’s spiritual and physical consequences any less terrible.

          It is so important that everyone knows the truth.

        • Your theology is a bit messed up, and in this sense, it actually leads to some real problems.

          Nobody “has” the Holy Spirit like it is a talisman. The Holy Spirit is not an object to be possessed. It is a Divine Person who provides guidance and light. That doesn’t mean we will take that guidance or light. So yes, by their baptism and belief in several essential doctrines of Christianity, I can say the Holy Spirit works in Protestant denominations.
          BUT HOW DOES HE WORK? Vatican II makes clear that the existence of a common baptism and Scriptures, belief in basic doctrines of Christ, etc, are things which impel our seperated brethren to return to the source of grace and truth: full communion with Jesus Christ through the Church he founded.
          It really isn’t a matter of telling people they are “spiritually deficient”, because all of us are spiritually deficient, and we shouldn’t go around hurling insults and judgements anyway, which seems to be a particular preoccupation of yours. it’s reminding our seperated brethren that they are being called home. If we can provide some insight on why they should make that journey and how to make it, we should. When we engage in this work, we will no doubt learn something in the process about ourselves and the truth as well.
          So you see, doctrine does matter. Your flawed doctrine of how to understand ecumenism (live and let live instead of working to provide a real and impactful unity amongst Christians with the Church Christ founded) leads to a pretty flawed understanding of the Holy Spirit as well. If we can’t get the basics about God right, how can we get anything else right?

          • guest

            I just disagree and couldn’t begin to itemize why, far too long. I will say, however, I believe YOUR theology is very messed up, judgmental, and very unloving. Our focus for evangelization should not be on other Christians, rather the other 5 billion people of other religions.

          • Pax

            I don’t know about ‘focus’ I tend to focus evangilization on whomever God puts in my life and being an American that gernerally means more protestants and athiests the non-christians. I don’t understand why you would suggest that protestants are any less worthy oof Gods love and any less worthy of the wonderful truth about the chruch he created then those who have know nothing about them. Aren’t they more worthy because they are borthers in baptism?

          • guest

            They don’t need us to tell them they are worthy of God’s love. They already know this wonderful truth. Moreover, they don’t need us to suggest their REAL churches are lacking. They don’t need our condescension. How insulting to these brothers and sisters in the faith! I never suggested they are less worthy of any good spiritual thing. As Pope Francis has said: “Evangelization is a personal dialog that often involves more emotional baggage than intellectual arguments. Winning souls is more important than winning arguments.” Amen to that great papal insight! Moreover, the souls of our brothers and sisters in the other REAL churches have already been won by Our Lord Jesus, just like Catholics.

          • Kevin M. Tierney

            You assume, without evidence, that when we state those things about how Protestant communities are deficient, we are about winning arguments instead of winning souls. All we are doing is quoting Dominus Iesus. Dialogue is only possible when there are parameters. And part of any doctrinal discussion is going to involve truth. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t walk with them along the way. It just means that, in the end, truth is truth.

          • Pax

            my friend, are you a catholic? If so Why? What is it that makes the catholic church a better choice then a protestant church?

            What I am suggesting is that the consequence of the attitude you express is that whatever is good in the catholic church, whatever makes it better then being a protestant you are suggesting we intentionally leave protestants out of that. Doing so is very unloving.

            especially considering that the fullness of the truth and the fullness of his grace in the sacraments can be found only in the catholic church.

          • The beauty of it is that we have a Church and a Magesterium. I can appeal to her teachings, and have done so consistently. You’ve appealed to your own sentiments.

            The Gospel is meant to be shared with all, and that includes those of us in the faith who aren’t living it, or aren’t doing a good job living it. It is also to be shared among those who do live it, so they may live it better.

            I don’t see how my theology is judgmental by saying that Protestants lack a valid priesthood and a valid Eucharist. Considering all except the Anglicans reject the sacerdotal priesthood and the Eucharist, don’t they kinda agree with me on that?

          • guest

            Protestants lack a valid priesthood and a valid Eucharist——-really? How would you like such a judgement put in your face? It’s too bad you can’t seehear how holier, and better, than thou you sound. This is not a good approach for building bridges of love with our brothers and sisters in all the other Real churches.

          • The first point of ecumenism is to be honest in presenting the truth. Otherwise I’m simply patronizing and insulting them by acting as if those things don’t matter. We can discuss things in a civil and charitable manner, but also point out hard truths and realities.

            And one of those realities is on the nature of the priesthood and the sacraments. Obviously you don’t take every moment to point that out. But if the discussion comes up, you can’t flee from it either. And eventually if real union is ever to be achieved, that discussion has to happen.

            And the only way it can end is by one side giving up their erroneous interpretation. IT’s not like the issue of papal primacy, where the dispute is over HOW it is to be exercised. Their orders are either valid or they aren’t. They either have the Eucharist or they don’t.

            It isn’t a matter of who is better or holier. It’s a question of revealed truth. If we wish to follow Christ, we need to follow that truth. Most Protestants respect and accept that. And to be honest, they respect it more than the watered down idea that truth doesn’t matter.

          • Pax

            I would HOPE that protestants believe something very different then Catholics about both the priesthood and the Eucharist. If they don’t then they should become Catholics. So, if it is somehow a shock that protestants think that catholic priest are performing arcane religious ceremonies and exist in an un-biblical relationship to God , which is what you HAVE to believe to be a protestant , I hope you won’t tell them they are being judgmental.

            We have to be able to discuss our very real differences in constructive ways without falling into name calling and assuming the other party is being judgmental.

            There is NOTHING judgmental about asserting that what you believe is true, if you believe it is true. It fact it is the most loving thing you can do for someone.

            Anything else is a lie.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Thank you,guest; I couldn’t have said it better myself. (Though Lord knows I am always trying on these various sites, LOL!!). When I read Scripture,particularly the New Testament, I see bits and pieces of what Mr.Tierney is claiming(and what the roman catholic church is forever trying to claim.), but from my perspective the parts don’t add up to make a coherent whole; to be brutally frank, I consider the entire roman catholic system to be a bogus, contrived, man-centered, jerry-rigged edifice designed to enslave people in a sort of quasi-theological”Stockholm Syndrome” that has lasted for centuries.The great Apostle Paul said in Galatians 5:1that…”It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery”…and I sorry, but that’s is EXACTLY what I consider the system of religion known as roman catholicism to be.Thanks, but no thanks; I most EMPHATICALLY disagree with John Henry Newman on this issue!! –PEACE IN HIM!

    • Wade St. Onge

      God laughs at the teachings of His own Magisterium?

      It is impossible for a Catholic to pit God against His Magisterium that way, for if a man does, he is ipso facto not Catholic.

      • guest

        Oh my! You cleverly miss the point on purpose!

        • Pax

          I don’t think he missed the point. Too subtle perhaps? Jesus created the Magisterium of the catholic church, HE commanded , and willed that all humanity would join and follow their governance. Anything less is a sin.

          Not knowing what you should do does not protect you or others from the harm you do, it only affects the type and degree of punishment you deserve for doing it.

          Protestants don’t know what they are doing is wrong, but the things they believe have negatively affected the whole of the world on unimaginable scales.

          • guest

            The bishops ate humble pie at Vatican 11. They rightly admitted much of what Luther said was right. Pope Francis is right to apologize to certain Protestant groups for past offenses of the RCC against them. Catholics, as well as Protestants, have made mistakes that have negatively affected the whole world. Let’s have some humility here, and some love would help as well.

          • Pax

            Hmm… i think you are misunderstanding something, or perhaps more than one something. The council of Trent, which condemned much of what Luther said, made a series of infallible declarations.

            http://carm.org/council-trent-canons-justification

            As did the first Vatican council, since what is infallible cannot contradict what is infallible any interpretation that brings one in conflict with the other is obviously mistaken. So I’m not sure what you mean by ‘eat humble pie’

            That notwithstanding , it should be recognized that Luther was a catholic priest and theologian engaged in debating hot button theological issues of his time, so that fact that there were other people who agreed with him , or that some of those issues have been settled in more than 500 years should not surprise anyone. However, there are more than a few of the things Luther taught that the catholic bishops will never agree with because they are contra biblical. ‘en sola scriptura’ being prime example.

            Humility and love are always good things, and where there is an opportunity to apologize for past mistakes I’m all for it.
            However, the gulf that Protestants and Catholics should not be dishonestly minimized and the truth is important because the Jesus IS the truth, the life, and the way (john 14:6).

            There is only one Jesus, he is not divided (1 Corth 1:13). There is only one truth, one way and life we have an obligation, out of love, to encourage one another to follow it as perfectly as we are able (1 Thess 5:11).

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            EXACTLY, Pax, and that…”Way, the Truth, and the Life”…IS JESUS the Christ, and NOTHING ELSE. My reading of Scripture fails to picture Him engaging Himself in the pseudo-religious detritus of various man-centered constructs; Our Saviour invited all of us to follow HIM, PERIOD. I have NO trouble rejecting the contrived, man-centered, pseudo – theological, quasi-historical, jerry-rigged constructs of any particular-“isms”–be they Protestantism or catholicism, although in the interest of truth, I largely agree with Luther.(Thank God for him!)-to be frank, I lay the blame for the”Reformation”squarely and the feet.of catholicism, and any reading of objective ecclesiastical history will bear that out.So…there it is.

          • Pax

            Well, I think we would both agree that Protestantism exists
            almost in its entirety due to the sins of Catholics. If both sides of Luther’s
            debate had showed a little bit more humility the whole problem could have been
            resolved with greater unity. Much of the blame also has to be laid at the feet
            of the bishops at the time of whom there were significant numbers more interested
            in politics then religion.

            That being said, scripture makes 3 things crystal clear.

            1) Jesus established one and only one church, there are
            bible passage after bible passage calling for unity and chastising those who
            cause division.

            2) That church Jesus founded was headed by the apostles who
            established an authorize higharchy which
            involved offices that were passed down from one generation to the next. The
            church and its bishops are the only ones vested with legitimate authority by
            God himself to solve disputes within the community.

            3) Jesus wills all people to be part of his one church and
            has promised he himself with protect and guide it , nor will the gates of hell prevail
            against it.

            History proves that the only church scripture could be
            talking about is the Catholic Church headed by the pope in Rome.

            If that is not the case, then obviously the church Jesus
            created has ceased to exist, which means also, obviously that he was unable to
            keep his promise because he is not God.

            So, you can take your pick. We are all called to be members
            of the Roman Catholic Church, or Jesus isn’t God, but the bible doesn’t allow
            for any other logical interpretations. if you are honestly seeking truth.

            I’m responding to this after several days, and not sure if
            you are still going to see this so if you want me to take the time to look up
            all the relevant scripture passages to support my points, just let me know.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            Sorry, Pax, but it’s only ” crystal clear”when read through the lens of catholicism, so…BIG FAIL!

          • Care to show where Vatican II admitted “Luther was right”, especially since nowhere did it touch upon the doctrinal controversies of the Reformation? Yes, it admitted there were awful popes during his time, and that led to a lot of scandal. Which was the same thing that the Church has been saying since the Counter-Reformation itself. You know, the disciplinary changes enacted to make sure the worst excesses of those popes never happened again.

          • Wade St. Onge

            I doubt “Guest” is going to come on line to “prove” that assertion — see my other comment for the reason why …

          • Wade St. Onge

            “The bishops ate humble pie at Vatican 11. They rightly admitted much of what Luther said was right.”
            As someone who wrote a manuscript on the Vatican II Council with an extensive examination of its contents, I would like you to cite me some examples, because I do not recall coming to that same conclusion.
            I am guessing you have not read the documents cover to cover twice like I did, and are merely relying on the popular writings and impressions given by those who like to think Vatican II was something it actually was not.

          • goral

            If the bishops didn’t eat humble pie at Vatican 2 they will be eating crow at Vatican 11 because it’s going to take them that long to set the record straight on all the “conciliatory” language that went Orbi by way of the children’s game of Post Office.
            Now V2 is credited with nailing the Augustinian’s ninety five thesis on the doors of Orthodoxy.

          • Guest_august

            Whatever the case. Every christian must remember this:
            unity, unity, unity: that is the will of the Lord Jesus
            viz: popeleo13(dot)com/pope/2014/06/30/category-archive-message-board-69/

          • Wade St. Onge

            So in short, you are unable to back your assertion that Vatican II admitted that mu of what Luther taught was right, and admit you have not actually read the Vatican II documents.

            If you are this unfamiliar with the actual teachings of the Magisterium and the contents of its documents, I would suggest that rather than shooting its messenger, which is all I was in this article, you should become more familiar with them, decide whether or not you will assent, and if unwilling, re-consider your ecclesiastical affiliation, as other choices may better fit your beliefs.

    • Pax

      Myself I think God does not laugh, but cries, ( in a garden overlooking Jerusalem called Gethsemane). He cries because one of his last prayers was ‘let them be one father and you and I are one’, He also commanded ‘love one another as I have loved you’ and again and again scripture warns of disunity. Yet many thousands of those baptized into him , have rejected the unity that he taught and HIS plan for keeping his ‘church body’ unified. So, also the have rejected both his kingdom and Christ himself. It is only their ignorance of what they have done that spares them from fires of hell.

      However, by his mercy , Jesus prays for them and say ‘Forgive them father for the know now what they are doing’. So, I have great hope that many of them will enter heaven, quite possibly before many Catholics.

      Still, this truth is gruesome and sad and hard to bear because none of us are sinless in the situation and Jesus is not well served by fragile and sinful humanity.

      • guest

        It is really too bad you think the way you, actually tragic. There is great unity among all Christians, but one must have eyes to see this. Unfortunately, you do not.

        • Pax

          You are mistaken that I do not see great unity. there is also great disunity. esp amongst protestants. I would bet that you would have difficulting finding so much as 1 teaching that all post reformation christain groups agree with. Esp, if you incude the Jahovas wintness and mormans.

          • Laurence Charles Ringo

            The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are considered pseudo -“christians, Pax—and you misspelled their designations.Don’t y have Auto – correct?

        • DianaG2

          ??

  • Ben

    It has been widely reported that Pope Francis stated to Pentecostal leaders in Rome his intention of NOT seeking the conversion of Evangelicals to the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is dying in multiple regions of the globe, especially in the West.

    • goral

      I’ve made that point too. Francis is apologizing to Evangelicals for their stealing “sheep”. He’s actually quite chummy with them and privately would probably say that they need no conversion. I don’t know why Guest is struggling here, he actually has a pope to his liking.

    • Pax

      do you have a specific report? My suspicion is, like with many things, this is both a misrepresentation and misquote of the pope.

    • Pax

      ok found a couple. I think what people are missing what the pope is saying. It is not ‘HIS’ job to convert anyone. That belongs to Jesus alone, all we can do is continue to inform people about what is the truth and try and live in harmony.

      • Ben

        I can’t imagine a CEO of a company saying that the competitors’ products are just as valuable and effective. Yes, companies hire and utilize sales managers for a reason, but the heads still promote and stand behind their own products. I don’t intend to demean the Catholic Church by comparing it to a secular corporation, but I just find it all very baffling. All I see is Evangelicals who are NOT shy about converting Catholics who are weak in their faith.

        • Pax

          I agree it is baffling. Assuming it is accurate. Of coarse we should also recognize it is a private statement made in a personal conversation recited by someone other then the person who made it and lacking a lot of context. He may simply have been trying to set the fellow at ease , he may even have been lying a little. This was not a public statement by a public figure, but a personal conversation with a public figure from a less public figure . The lesser public figure then turned around and told people what he believed the pope ( who was not speaking in his native language) said.

          So there is A LOT of room for interpretation here. I am beginning to suspect that is the way Pope Francis likes it, since he seldom seems to make an attempt to correct something said about what he says.

          • DianaG2

            I sometimes wish he would stop talking to people — especially journalists.

        • Laurence Charles Ringo

          Evangelicals are instruments of conversion, if you will (The Holy Spirit does the actual converting.), because they point people who are”weak in their faith”, as you say, to the only One they should have faith in, to wit, JESUS THE CHRIST, not contrived, man-centered, bogus religious systems.

    • DianaG2

      Not at all.

      I think you’d LIKE to see that, though?