Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Pope and the Lutherans

Sandro Magister, "A Pope Like None Before -- Somewhat Protestant" (www.chiesa, July 22, 2016): "The idyll between Francis and the followers of Luther. The alarm of cardinals and bishops against the 'Protestantization' of the Catholic Church. But also the distrust of authoritative Lutheran theologians."
In the alarmed letter that thirteen cardinals from five continents were preparing to deliver to Pope Francis at the beginning of the last synod, they were warning him against leading the Catholic Church as well to “the collapse of liberal Protestant churches in the modern era, accelerated by their abandonment of key elements of Christian belief and practice in the name of pastoral adaptation:"

... At the last of his in-flight press conferences, on the way back from Armenia, [Pope Francis] sang the praises of Luther. He said that he was moved by the best of intentions, and that his reform was “medicine for the Church,” skimming over the essential dogmatic divergences that for five centuries have pitted Protestants and Catholics against each other, because - these are again his words, this time spoken in the Lutheran temple of Rome - “life is greater than explanations and interpretations.”

The ecumenism of Francis is made like this. The primacy goes to the gestures, the embraces, some charitable act done together. He leaves doctrinal disagreements, even the most profound, to the discussions of theologians, whom he would gladly confine “to a desert island,” as he loves to say only half-jokingly.


Anonymous said...

Francis has not mothballed indulgences -- they were given in connection with his Synod -- or one could equally say that all popes since Vatican II have mothballed indulgences.

In his remarks on Luther's doctrine of justification Francis is merely repeating what the joint Lutheran-Catholic Declaration of 31 Oct 1999 said. This is an unremarkable as his remarks on evolution, which an ignorant media treats as hot news!

JM said...

On this point my Protestant background still rears its head. See this:

Mick Jagger gathers no Mosque said...

A Luther reader

Pertinacious Papist said...

I'm curious why. Is it basically that the typical caricature ('sola fide') is too simplistic? I'll grant that.

I worked shoulder-to-shoulder with ELCA Lutherans for 20 years back when the Joint Declaration on Justification was being hammered out, hopeful that significant agreement could be achieved. A joint "Catholic-Lutheran Covenant" was signed by the Catholic bishop of Charlotte and the Lutheran counterpart in NC. However, at the end of the day, when ELCA Lutherans and RC theologians concluded the Joint Declaration on Justification, the area of overlapping agreement was miniscule -- and Missouri Synod Lutherans would have no part of it.

My own conclusions after all that were that, whatever good will and hospitality Lutherans and Catholics might show each other, the only one of Melanchthon's slogans they were really agreed on was sola gratia. But not sola fide, sola scriptura, or sola Christus, at least as Lutherans understand those slogans.

The other thing I found dreadfully distressing back when I had 'ecumenical' hopes, was that most rank-and-file Lutherans do NOT believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, in baptismal regeneration, in auricular confession, in the necessity of personal transformation for salvation, etc. Now of course we could point to comparable problems of sacramentalized 'pagan' Catholics. And that is a problem. But I think most Catholics (even lapsed ones) would be willing to acknowledge what authentic Catholic teaching is, whereas I'm not at all sure that most contemporary Lutherans even know what the traditional teachings of their 'magisterial' reformers is.

JM said...


Could talk for hours here, but writing is more of a chore. I guess I would simply say that I still emotionally concur with Peter Kraft's comments in "Fundamentals of the Faith." The Real Presence is big for me, but it is big because I know Jesus. Gag on the Protestant verbiage, I know. But more essentially, despite how current Catholic teaching is explained to me, I still believe some people are 'saved,' and seem to have spirutla current, while others are dead, even if they bear the ultraviolet watermark of baptism. Baptism is the sacrament of faith, and modern Catholics, including Trads, seems stuck on ritual as the key to salvation. Experientially that is just proven false time and again. I too disdain charismania, but the New Life found there as well as elsewhere is for me unmistakable. Luther was wrong on ALOT, and a child of his time. But I don't think he was a villain any more than Pascal. And I still wait for Catholic theologians who can communicate with laymen on this core. Meanwhile, we suffer as faithfulness is equated with being a scout leader or a Knights of Columbus member. Good things, but not the same as being a disciple. Even as I type that it sounds cliched, but it is true. Catholics right now seem busy fighting over liturgics while the world is going to Hell. As for reading the Bibke, I still wait ti hear a blogger convincingly advocate that, versus gushing over Francis or Ferarra. Casual thoughts here...

Pertinacious Papist said...


I think the starting point of our agreement would be Bouyer's Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, whatever differences we might encounter along the way. I would likely find Pascal more congenial to the Catholic Faith than Luther, however, though I used to think otherwise. I've been burned by a Lutheran bishop on the threshold of converting to the Catholic Faith after reading Kreeft's Fundamentals and then discovering that it wasn't quite as simple as Kreeft made it seem -- namely, that Luther had discovered in a Catholic book the Catholic Faith and nothing more. The Lutheran bishop gave up all thoughts of conversion when he read that John Paul II in the Jubilee Year of 2000 had proclaimed a general indulgence and prayed for the intercession of Mary in the evangelization of the world.

More over drinks sometime.