Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Remarkable: Catholic writes lay apologist, Mark Shea, seeking assurance that Church won't change doctrine

Assignment: Compare, contrast, and critically evaluate:[Hat tip to JM]


James Joseph said...

As a rule of thumb, I am wary of any apologist. Some of them, I am particularly disturbed by.

An old priest, who is quite ecumenical, once confided in me, "There seems to be an awful lot of converts running things in the Catholic media and writing books." He told me how we should be a little more cautious because they are being trusted with positions, which historically would go to the most mature in the Faith, that can cause a bit of harm to the formations of Catholics.

Charles said...


I've often had the same thought. (1 Timothy 3:6)

Everywhere I look around the mainstream Catholic media these days, it seems, I'm seeing former Protestant Evangelical converts telling us how the Catholic faith is to be understood. Even if they were always right in what they said, there's something about this that isn't quite right. And I doubt they're close to being always right. They lack the lived-experience of generations of Marian piety, not to mention traditional liturgy. When it comes to head knowledge, they often lack deep knowledge of Catholic tradition.

Chris said...

James, Charles,

I'm a former Anglican, and St. Paul was a former persecutor of the Church. Is the problem with convert-apologists that they're converts or that they still cling to their Protestant mode of presentation?



Charles said...


I've often heard Catholics say that "converts make the best Catholics." In some ways that may be true in a context where proper Catholic catechesis has been lost for half a century and numerous Catholics desirous of remaining faithful to our Lord and the Church have been doing their best on their own, often flocking to quasi-protestant half-way measures like the charismatic renewal for sustenance.

The problem with converts isn't that they lack doctrinal awareness or seriousness. They often outshine us in that department and are often intimately acquainted with many key details in Scripture and tradition. The problem is that their formation in these subjects was shaped almost exclusively by the issues that animated their own interest in converting to the Catholic faith. As a result, these somewhat apologetical concerns with justifying their own departure from their erstwhile religious communions and conversion to Catholicism continues to shape their self-formation in Catholic religion and spirituality.

The result is a hybrid Catholicism that is highly analytical and propositional, concerned with "proof-texting" positions by reference to Scripture and various points of tradition and magisterial teaching. While not bad in itself, this form of Catholicism tends to find itself very much at home with (and comfortable with) all of the streamlined innovations that have made their way into the Church since Vatican II, things that started out as illicit "abuses" but were then mainstreamed and canonically legitimated, such as versus pupulum liturgies, communion in the hand, lay Eucharistic ministers, extemporaneous prayer during the Bidding Prayers of the liturgy, holding hands during the Our Father, etc. In short, it's a very Protestantized Catholicism generally oblivious of or unfamiliar with earlier liturgical practice, not to mention devotional piety. One tell-tale sign is an almost complete lack of seriousness about such matters as indulgences, purgatory, First Fridays, or First Saturdays. Another is an outlook on the state of Israel and American exceptionalism almost indistinguishable from that of Protestantism.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

James Joseph,
Your old priest has it exactly right. What he does not say (and with which for all I know may not agree, but perhaps should consider) is that the phenomenon traces back to:

(1) the inbred sense of capitalistic entrepreneurship and pursuit of recognition that is part of the protestant ethic and does not magically disappear upon conversion;

(2) the sense which many Catholic clergymen had of themselves as a superannuated species which might even be harmful to the development of the laity into plastic saints of ministry, evangelism, and all of the duties that were once done by genuine priests.

The blending of clergy and laity into a single, behaviorally "androgynous" species is right out of Rahner and Balthazar in his "razing the bastions" pose. In the sixties and seventies the idea of priests soft-pedaling their priestly duties and "getting down" digging ditches with "The People" was quite common. Priests and nuns teaching English classes in Catholic high schools were duking it out for paperback copies of Ignazio Silone to assign to their classes. The odor of self-abnegation filled the air of rectories like that of weed suffused college dormitories. Of course, many of the "get down" priests ended up leaving the priesthood to become social workers and stock brokers – which, in fact, was a better outcome than remaining priests and poisoning well after well with their shabby “Springtime of Renewal” ideas.

Business is full of shoddy idea men who have superb work ethics and happen to be protestant. The Church is full of shoddy idea men who have superb work ethics and used to be protestant. Do you blame these latter for being the opportunists they were raised to be, or do you blame the "welcoming" Catholics who eagerly turned over so much responsibility to them, leaving us today with an "androgynously" Catholiprotestant Assembly of God and His Saints? Why not both?

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Good comment, Charles, very well put