Friday, July 13, 2007

Pope says Protestants hellbound

So the Holy Father has been busy this last week leading up to his vacation. There are always last minute odds and ends to tie up, I suppose, before one rests.

First, there was the motu proprio on Saturday that frees the pre-Vatican II liturgy to be more widely celebrated. He did so for unity's sake, out of charity, to heal some wounds caused by the establishment of the new liturgy, the Novus Ordo, some 40 years ago. "The old liturgy is fine for us, thank you very much," said some - I pray that the wound can begin to heal now. Now, the pope did not "undo" Vatican II. The liturgy before Vatican II has always been considered valid and good and holy. And it could be celebrated with the proper permission. But now it will be even more broadly available for those who want to still celebrate it.

Then, on Wednesday, he came out and said that Protestants are going to hell.

What? He didn't say that?

Let me go read it again. Give me a minute. Hmm. Wow, OK.

Well, I thought he must have because of the size of the turd some Prots were having over it.

Oh, I see now, he said Prots didn't have churches, but were simply "ecclesial communities"?


So why do some Protestants have a problem with this proclamation? I mean, Protestants, as I recall, don't accept the Catholic Church's teaching about what is the Church. In other words, the Holy Catholic Church says that at least the following is what makes up the Church: (1) apostolic succession and holy orders, and, consequently, (2) valid sacraments, specifically the Eucharist. Hey, and papal authority is important too.

Ironically, I've been told I was a heretic and apostate because I believed this stuff. Have these protesting Prots suddenly become Cats?

No? I didn't think so.

So what's the problem, brah? You don't accept the pope as your papa - use whatever word you want to describe your ecclesial community. When you say church, you mean something different than when Papa Benedict says church. That's all there is to understand here.

Now that we understand the essential difference between us, let's try to move forward together.


Dan said...

Creiky! You're feeling feisty today!

Scott Lyons said...

Must be the lack of sleep from driving all night back from MI on Wednesday. And then, stupidly, going to a Drive-in movie theater the day we get back.

I know, stupid.

And while I briefly heard about the Motu Proprio while in Michigan, I didn't hear about the proclamation from the CDF until I got home. Then I read a couple of Prot blogs I frequent (that are usu fairly Cat friendly) and they sounded as if the pope had dug up their sweet old godly grandmothers, spat on them, and reburied them.

So I was feeling feisty, I suppose. I still struggle with that character weakness. I hope I didn't go overboard.

And you said nothing but interesting. ;) Sheesh. lol.

Jared Coleman said...

Yeah, I agree... nothing to get worked up over. Way to bring the sanity!

Scott Lyons said...

Jared, I was thinking about you the other night as I drove under the Hall of Fame Bridge.

alison said...

How can we move forward when people get all histrionic...and then others get all histrionic back?

Scott Lyons said...

Alison, my histrionics are actually in response to their petulance. So how does one move forward from that? I suppose in seeking to understand the point of my histrionics. Or at least in seeking to understand which is more appropriate to the situation - their petulance or my histrionics.

Here's my view of the situation, my reasonable view:

I understand that Protestants might take offense that someone believes they don't have real churches. I do. But why should these Protestants care what some Catholic pope says? These are people who condemn Catholics for believing the things that they're so upset the pope is telling them they do not believe.

Frankly, it's insane.

Here are Protestant responses I've heard about the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's (CDF) clarification of Catholic doctrine: (1) The reformation is not over! (in answer to Mark Noll's titular question), (2) "Pope Benedict XVI is meaningless"; "[He's] just an old man trying to get attention," and (3) something that amounts to Well, the Catholic Church has thrown down its theological gauntlet, let's throw down ours.

And these are people with voices. People who people listen to; not nobody-bloggers like myself.

Any reasonable Protestant, after examining what was actually said, should say, "We agree with the pope - our understandings of the church are different." And many have. Some have not.

Now, if one of the men or women who have been petulant about the CDF's clarification would like to challenge my histrionics, I would love to have a conversation with him or her about the differences in our ecclesiologies. I don't suspect that will happen. But if it did, I suspect we would have a charitable conversation and move forward.

Scott Lyons said...

Another thing that disturbs me about some Protestants' reactions to the CDF's statement is that it is so relativistic, so spoken from the bowels of Tolerance - as if the Catholic Church should recognize Protestantism as an equally valid ecclesiology. Of course Catholic ecclesiology is different than Protestant ecclesiology. If it weren't, we would be one.

We must understand that this, and any, clarification is for our unity. Why? Because we must each understand our differences before we can resolve them. We must know what we each believe in order to begin to address our differences.

There can be no "going forward" if we do not know where we are.

And now I'm belaboring the point. My apologies.

Dan said...

So here's a question for you: if you contend that Protestants shouldn't care what the Pope says, then shouldn't it follow that you needn't care what the Protestants say about the Pope? Why are you so worked about what they have to say, when you say they shouldn't be worked up by what the Pope says?

Protestants cannot ignore the Catholic Church, and why should they? Many, except for the most fundamentalist Protestants, view Catholics as believer and brothers, albeit from "that" side of the family. We'll all meet together at the family reunion, but we're not going to be staying in touch on a regular basis afterwards. But we're still in the same family, and when a family member makes a pronouncement as strong as the Pope's--well, it's not going to be ignored, nor do I think it's reasonable to assume that it should/will be ignored simply because the Protestants don't agree with Catholicism on every level.

As a Protestant in a family of Catholics, I took great umbrage at the Pope's comment, since it impacts me directly--it's now what my family must believe about me. The Pope's comment is a very personal one for this Protestant. That's why I care about it.

Protestants and Catholics don't live in isolation from each other either. They are neighbors, coworkers, friends and family. In many of those microcosms, small movements towards understanding and reconciliation have taken place--we all know Protestants who have been pleasantly surprised to find that Catholics are "actually believers." (I contend that those Prots are rubes to start with...but I digress). And I'm sure there are Catholics who appreciate the ministries of James Dobson, or who listen to Family Life Radio in the car and appreciate what Protestantism brings to the table. My brother has even said in his homilies that though his time away from the Catholic Church was regrettable, it brought elements to his understanding of God. To be fair, he would submit that God used his time in the evangelical despite his disobedience, but I would submit that part of the reason my brother is such a terrific priest is because he WAS Protestant for a time. There are things to be learned from both sides of the banquet table.

But this comment of the Pope sends a missile right into the heart of those movements towards reconciliation. I don't think Benedict cares about that, but rather is only consumed with his perception of absolute truth, and he's in his bully pulpit and he's carrying a big stick. There's no Protestant who's going to like what he has to say, and I don't think it's absurd for Protestants to be bothered by it.

Regardless, all of this is incredibly interesting to me. :-)

Dan said...

As a point of clarification: I don't think that James Dobson or Family Life Radio are the best things we have to offer. If that's the case, I'm becoming Catholic!

paul said...

Now Dan, is being repelled into the bosom of Catholicism the way you see it happening?

alison said...

"And to those of you who will listen: Whatever the price of unity, I am willing to pay it.

So I get out of bed tonight because my soul is uneasy. I lay down a few words in search of rest: (1) Silence is almost always wiser than speaking. (2) The only apologetic is love."

Scott Lyons
January 16

Forgive me for quoting you to yourself, I know it's a pain. Paul doesn't like it when I do it to him and I don't like it when he does it to me...and yet that is one way we can really and truly love: reminding one another of what we say we want to do, who and how we want to be.

Within the context of theological discussion there is no room for sarcasm, flip answers and finger pointing. Long pauses, thoughtful silences, punctuated only by the sound of deep inhalations and exhalations should be the norm. There shouldn't be off the cuff and histrionic commentary nor petulant response and there wouldn't be if I ran the world, or at least the church/Body of Christ.

Are you really willing to pay the price of unity, of love?

True love has passion and often says difficult things, but it never pitches fits. It stands boldly with strength, it doesn't abuse.

I am not saying you were abusive, and we can certainly talk about what the other kids said, but they aren't one of my oldest friends.

Consider these comments a tollbooth, but I'm on the road with you.

Scott Lyons said...

Dan, I didn't piss and moan when Rob Bell preached before communion a few weeks back about how, contrary to Catholic teaching, every believer is a priest who can administer the Eucharist from every other believer. And that Holy Communion is holy and valid without a bishop.

I didn't write in to CNN about it.

I didn't even blog about it.

Why? Because Bell's a Protestant and believes Protestantly. And the last time I checked, Benedict and the CDF are Catholic. They believe Catholicly. (Sorry about the made-up adverbs.)

As far as what your family believes - of course it hasn't changed. This is no new teaching of the Church. This is a clarification, a reminder, of what the Church believes. Your family already believed it about you. That doesn't mean they don't love you, or that they think less of you because of it.

It's crazy obtuse, Dan, and you know it. Just because I'm Catholic doesn't mean you have less affection for me. And just because you're Protestant doesn't mean I have less affection for you. Or that we believe the other is less a Christian for it.

Now you're right, Protestants and Catholics are not islands. But this clarification doesn't change our relationships. It says: We are the Catholic Church. You are not.

To ignore that belief gives us a false unity, if any. No genuine ecumenism can take place if the Catholic Church is saying, Oh, we're just like you. Or if Protestants come to the table saying, Oh, and we're just like you. There are differences. And someone's beliefs will change for there to be unity. That doesn't mean that we can't serve together and help redeem our fallen world together. That doesn't mean we don't recognize the work of the Spirit of God in the other.

The Catholic Church can learn a lot from the Protestant world. No one is denying that. The Catholic Church is simply saying, with St Ignatius of Antioch and every other early Father who spoke of it, that if you do not have the bishop then you do not have the Church. That is the consistent teaching of the Church throughout history, everywhere. Papa Benedict didn't make it up to piss off Protestants. But to ignore the truth of it would be to act unjustly and uncharitably toward Protestants.

And the CDF's statement is for reconciliation, not against it. As bass ackwards as that sounds. I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but we cannot reconcile believers if we do not understand what each believes. This is no bully pulpit. This is the consistent teaching of the Church. If it has been unclear, it has been wrongly unclear - hence the clarification.

The reason I think it's absurd for you as a Protestant to be bothered by it is because the pope has only said exactly what you believe about your church. You do not believe the bishop is necessary for the Church. You do not believe in the transformation of the elements into the body and blood of Christ. That's what the pope said. And that's what you believe. And you're upset?

But what you and others are being offended about is that the bishop and the Eucharist happens to be how the Catholic Church defines church. It's not how Protestants define church. And so here we are arguing about the pope saying that you believe what you believe and that makes you not Catholic.

I'm sorry, but that's absurd to me.

He's not saying you're not a Christian. He's not saying you have no relationship to Christ. He's saying that (1) the Catholic Church defines Church thusly. (2) Protestants do not have or believe in how the Catholic Church defines Church. (3) Therefore, Protestants do not have Church according to Catholic teaching.

It seems like a pretty easy syllogism to me.

Protestants have been saying the same thing - continually for the past 500 years - about the Catholic Church from the other side of the yard. (You rely on a sacramental ecclesiology, etc.) But they usually go a step further and deny that Catholics are recipients of the God's grace period.

Now, about my being riled: As absurd as it is for me to rankle about someone getting riled about the pope, I am only upset because your offense makes no sense to me. If I thought your argument were valid, I would accept your offense. But it doesn't seem to hold water, and that riles me. And I don't think I've been a Catholic so long as to be so completely "brainwashed" to not remember what it was to be an Evangelical. Unless I've completely underestimated Darth Benedict's power.

Roll the eyes; say, "Whatever"; and move on.

But, hey, whatever. ;)

And, of course, you know you're my friend (you little Protestant bastard). You're just less of a friend (and Christian) now that my marching orders have come in.


Geez Louise, Dan. I haven't been this excited since Coca Cola came out with New Coke.

Dan, I simply don't understand what the big deal is. That's what my problem is. Nothing has changed. My relationship and beliefs about my Protestant family and friends are the same.

The pope gets dressed and puts on his miter and the whole world blanches?

Scott Lyons said...

Ouch, Alison. That's just low. I bet that does irritate Paul. : )

I'll respond in a bit.

Deep Furrows said...

Since this document is nothing new, I would suggest that it's the perceived tone of the document that irritates folks: that is, many see it as a painful reminder of Catholic triumphalism, like rubbing salt in the wound.

For Protestants who would like to go beyond irritation, I would suggest appreciating both sides of the word "subsists." It's a both/and word, so it has a sweet and a sour side.

Then, I would point out the Catholic Church sees the divisions as wounding Orthodox, Protestants, AND Catholics. Under the Response to the Fourth Question, it says that: "On the other hand, because of the division between Christians, the fullness of universality, which is proper to the Church governed by the Successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him, is not fully realised in history."

As for this impacting how Catholics see Protestant coworkers or family members, it's my experience that such a thing would be unlikely. Your mileage may vary, but I've found Catholics (except theology nerds and perhaps professionals) to be pretty unaware of official statements...


Scott Lyons said...

Speaking of tollbooths, as I was driving through West Virginia, I paid the toll and the operator said nothing to me. The electronic sign ahead said, "Toll Paid. Thank You." I looked at my wife and said, "Our signs say 'Thank You' so we don't have to."

That's appreciable sarcasm, I hope. It's also useful in a theological conversation. Theology needs to be argued. It needs to be discussed and hashed out and struggled through. Then, at the end of the day, we need to punch the clock, head to the local pub, and enjoy dinner together.

We are friends, brothers and sisters. And our unity runs deeper than our ecclesiologies because it rests in Christ, it rests in love. That doesn't change, does it?

Thinking, even theological thinking, needs to be met with an occasional sarcasm if it's going to be shabby thinking. I don't use sarcasm on my blog regularly to argue Catholicism. You know that I don't. I do use it sometimes because I believe it's useful or necessary. That's not to say I always get it right, or that I do it well.

What frustrates me, Alison, is that every disagreement becomes a crossroads for Evangelicals (pointed exaggeration). It's either-or. It's With me or agin me. It's Saved or hellbound. I don't see the world that way. I don't see disagreements as crossroads. My relationship to Dan or you or Paul does not change because we disagree fervently about what should be called a church. Or that we disagree whether it should even be an issue, as it were.

Now, Alison. I do want unity. I am willing to pay top dollar for it. But that is sort of my point - the Catholic Church cannot move toward unity until it has told the truth (as it were) about what the Catholic Church is and always has been. And I still don't understand why the CDF's clarification of the teaching of the Church injures that unity. It might injure the misconceptions that have barnacled upon it, but not any genuine unity.

"Love is the only apologetic." I could also say the Holy Spirit is the only Apologist, but I still need to wax apologetical at times. And while silence is almost always the best way, I still do and should be allowed to speak sometimes.

It is your right, and your responsibility, as my friend to call me on my actions. But why not call Dan on his reaction to the CDF's clarification? Now maybe you've spoken to him about it. I don't know. But I think perhaps that it's not so much about my reaction as it is that my reaction was offensive to you, and his was not.

And I'm sorry it was offensive to you. It was not intended to be.

I love you guys. And I'm a lover. And I'm in for the long haul. To me this argument is a silliness that will be over and forgotten within a week's time. But that doesn't mean it's not necessary or useful.

Dan and I are friends. And we can scuffle now and again without injuring our relationship. Quite honestly, I still don't understand why the CDF statement upsets him. Maybe it's completely visceral for him. Or maybe I'm completely obtuse. Either is possible. Maybe both. But he's my friend.

And that means something to me. He could go stark raving mad and think all Catholics are moronic losers and that Jesus is the Great Interferer - he would still be my friend.

As are you and Paul. So while I respectfully disagree with you about the use of sarcasm and debate in theology, it is only because for me there is a bridge that spans the sarcasm and the struggle. I bridge that I've always assumed and acted accordingly.

Scott Lyons said...

Dan, I just re-read my comment from 1:49 p.m., and I do need to apologize about it. My end comments, specifically, were meant completely tongue-in-cheek, but they were out of line regardless. Please forgive me for them.

Scott Lyons said...

Thank you, Fred, for your reasonableness in the midst of my diatribe. Excellent points.

Scott Lyons said...

One other point, specifically to Dan and Alison, forgive my overreaction. Because that's what it is.

But do let me explain myself, if you would.

When I wrote this post, I had no idea that any of my friends had been offended by the CDF's clarification. I thought the offense was fringe, and have come to realize that it was not fringe at all.

So I apologize, but the sarcasm of the post was never aimed at you, but at those men with voices who have spoken out on this issue in other places. It was a quiet, private sarcasm - much like my tollbooth example - because none of these people read my blog.

The fact that my friends, who are Protestant, took umbrage with the CDF statement, quite honestly took me off guard.

Perhaps it shouldn't have, but it did.

Anyway, I thought I would share that with you all in order to contextualize my reaction. Maybe it will better help you understand my surprise at your reactions.

alison said...


I didn't know what the Pope said until I read your post. I didn't follow Dan's link. I didn’t know that Paul had; we didn’t discuss it. My concern wasn’t about the Pope’s statement or your commentary, (frankly, I agree with your reasoning), but your tone in discussing it. You sounded snotty and swaggering. I didn't hear love. I assumed you were addressing the hysterical Protestant bloggers. Not being one, I didn’t take your comments personally. But I was offended by the voice you used, the combative style you employed.

"What's the problem, brah?" is where I got really irked. When you followed that with the suggestion that now that “we” understand each other’s differences let’s try to move forward.

I guess that “we” is what I’m talking about, because I haven’t been hearing a lot of that from you. There has been a preponderance of “Us” and “You”. Please tell me that when you wrote “we”, assumedly to the hysterical Protestants, that you were standing in the “we” of the Body of Christ. I heard “YOU PROTESTANTS” and it wasn’t the first time.

Here is where we part ways on the use of sarcasm in theological debate. When you love someone, when you are intimate with him or her, there is a freedom that does not exist between strangers. You and Dan can throw down, probably without lasting damage, because you are old friends, because you are committed to each other.

Strangers exchanging taunts in the name of furthering the study of God just doesn’t sit with me. The comments you and Dan exchanged weren’t an offense (to me) because they were between friends. I didn’t take Dan to task because he was talking about his family he wasn’t taking on, “YOU CATHOLICS” nor has he been posting crabbily about Protestantism versus Catholicism for over a year. If he persists and uses a snarky tone, to boot, I will be all over him. Til then he is under a state of grace. We can discuss the possible limits of it on another occasion.

That was a joke.

And I was talking about MY grace. You are under it too, but I’m taking off the gloves. If I didn’t care about you, if I wasn’t committed to you, if I didn’t think something was at stake, I wouldn’t bother.

When I think about you I don’t think, “You Catholic, Scott”, I think, “my friend, Scott”. And I assume you think about me as, “my friend, Alison” but when I hear you say, “YOU PROTESTANTS!” if only implicitly, I am saddened to find myself on the other side of a divide.

We just can’t focus on the “We” enough: We, the Body of Christ, we, the human race, we, the living because we are divided, so broken, fractured. There is a place for “you” and that is where gentleness, love and respect are so important, I would say, necessary.

“I speak with people who come from different traditions than my own faith tradition and it always seems as if there is no bridge where there ought to be bridges. It seems that many of us who love theology are more concerned with being right than righteous. And I am one of them (though less astute than most), making others feel as if they and their beliefs are somehow wanting.

I don't mean to. And I apologize for doing so. I try to walk the road of "Here is what engages and delights me about Catholicism" and I end up sliding a dusty toe onto the shoulder of "I know better than you."

It is not right.”

Scott Lyons
January 16

Again I quote you. There is no room for that dusty toe on the road to unity. My initial post was a terse way of telling you to watch it, to let you know that you were joining the ranks of the histrionic, although – on THIS occasion – I think you are right that you were only petulant.

If I didn’t think I know that your heart is to tell, “what engages and delights” you about Catholicism I wouldn’t take the time to tell you I’m hearing, “I know better than YOU.” If I thought you were only a self-righteous crank I wouldn’t bother.

I haven’t bothered up until now because I was afraid of giving offense and of being misunderstood, but that’s a poor excuse.

I was offended by your sarcasm, that wasn’t even aimed at me, because you were responding in kind and because I know where you say you want to go.

WE don’t have time for pitching fits aimlessly. That’s stalling and WE are on a journey.

Let’s keep talking on the way.

Deep Furrows said...

I sympathize with you, even as I have puzzled these things out myself. Looking over this document and the first 3 chapters of Vatican II's Lumen Gentium, I see many details that were originally of great hope to Protestants, namely that the Catholic Church acknowledged many things about Protestantism that Protestants had claimed for themselves: a share in the truth, charisms, the common priesthood of baptism, etc. And yes, the Catholic Church makes certain claims for herself that have not been acknowledged.

Scott Lyons said...


About love and confrontation: A simple, brief statement would have been more appropriate. That would be the kind of confrontation that respects me enough to call me on my attitude, and, at the same time, respects me enough to believe that I could handle it from there. (And disparaging me by calling me snotty, crabby, etc., is really not necessary.)

In the future, if I am continually causing offense in some way outside the scope of one particular post, please send an e-mail.

Dan said...

After all of this, I'm left more with a sense of "what just happened?" than anything else...and a firm resolve that I'd much rather go make a cake than scrapple with one of my oldest friends over an issue like this.

And just for the record: though I may have taken umbrage with what the Pope said, I'm still on your team, Scott, and decidedly on your side as a Protestant who cherishes all of the Catholics in his life. I don't want to be just a "Prot" who doesn't agree with the Pope. I'm a Prot who loves Catholics, while respectfully agreeing to disagree.

alison said...


I posted several hours ago, but when I checked back it hadn't posted. My internet connection is spotty, so it must have gotten lost.

What I said before was I'm sorry I didn't think of the possibility of e-mail.

Will you forgive me?

Scott Lyons said...


I want to say "Fuhgeddaboudit," or, "There's nothing to forgive."

Of course I will.

Will you please forgive me?

I have been reading over my "Catholic" posts over the last year. And I can see how you would read them as confrontational.

Please understand that I never, never meant any of them that way. (Well, to be fair, 97% of them. 96% if you include this post.) When I post on my Catholicism, I'm posting about how I feel about my faith - my faith as a Catholic, and often that is easiest for me to understand in contrast to my faith as a Protestant and what I experienced or failed to experience in Protestantism.

I've really simply been trying to record my faith journey here. But I do need to be more sensitive to my audience. And I will do my best to be so.

I love my Protestant family and friends - and Hey! they're the only kind I've got. (Online friends aside.)

Scott Lyons said...


Thank you. And I couldn't agree with you more.

To be fair, I would rather be eating your cakes.