Thursday, December 04, 2014

How some Calvinists view Catholicism today

"Party lines, hope & change, and inconvenient truths"

Thus read the title of the telegram I received from Guy Noir - Private Eye, the beginning of a long missive full of miffed musings and vented aggravations. Here's what the telegram said:
I have not even read this rather head-turning piece... in Christianity Today ... by R.R. Reno!  And I am not at all sure I can, especially after reading a similar take in the evangelical zine Relevant this summer (
But I will make this one comment. Here is a post from a very Reformed [a.k.a. "Calvinist"]--and unfortunately very antagonistic to contemporary Catholic converts--website. How come they can make this rather arguably astute observation, but it would be like speaking in a foreign tongue if addressed to a smart guy like Reno. The antagonist Protestant take goes like this:
I think the point is that Bryan Cross and the whole Called to Communion project is almost entirely out of step with modern Roman Catholicism post-V2. ... It’s why you don’t see very many cradle RCs calling us to communion. They understand that the Vatican now sees us as true Christians, having in practice renounced the anathemas of Trent even while still nominally claiming them. The religion that Bryan and CtC promote is very heady and not at all in touch with the average RC in the pew. …[T]he church basically renounced its earlier doctrines and practices at V2… Bryan et al don’t see it at all, which is why we get 10,000 word tomes trying to make the square peg of Tridentine Romanism fit the round hole of post-V2 RCism. The blindness of CtC is seen in their refusal to admit that if Francis and any nineteenth century pope sat down together, neither one of them would recognize each other as a true RC.
Guy Noir continues:
I really don't know. Does proposing something that seems simply beyond the pale -- just because it seems beyond the pale -- make a suggestion out of the question? If a nagging suspicion or claim won't go away, is the best policy simply to ignore it? If Francis to so many Catholics sounds unCatholic, isn't that a reason to address to underlying issues, versus continuing to exist in a faith-anestithizing environment where we just pretend it ain't so? And while I am at it, since when is a Pope who talks like Universalism is an option and Being Good is good enough, a pope than evangelicals think sounds evangelical?! B. B. Warfield and Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, please call you offices, stat!


Daniel Arseneault said...

Protestants call "modern Catholicism" what we call liberal heterodoxy, they ignore official statements of doctrine, and claim that Catholicism has somehow changed after Vatican II.

Anonymous said...

I am part of the wave of converts in the late 90's and early 2000. Very heady days, the Catholic moment and John Neuhaus and all that. I wondered why priests at the time did not seem all that enthusiastic for people joining the Church. I was told first, it was the liberals, than it was AmChurch; now it seems that the Roman hierarchy itself. Very unnerving all of it.


George said...


I'm not as confident as you seem to be that it's all that simple.

Just to take the Protestant's last challenge, namely, getting Pope Bergoglio together with a 19th-century pope and seeing if they would recognize each other as Catholic.

Bergoglio might recognize, say, Leo XIII or Pius IX as bearing the trappings of a form of what was once recognized as Catholicism from the distant past, but do you imagine either of them would recognize Bergoglio as a Catholic?

Even in terms of the content of their beliefs there are significant differences, not merely in emphasis. But put that aside, and what you have left is the material differences in terms of their papal "style," liturgy, governance, discipline. I think either of the 19th century popes cited might find the contemporary Anglican liturgy more materially Catholic than the Novus Ordo, and as for their views of Protestantism, secularism, and modernity -- they would see one another as inhabiting utterly different worlds.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

"Protestants call "modern Catholicism" what we call liberal heterodoxy, they ignore official statements of doctrine, and claim that Catholicism has somehow changed after Vatican II."

Are you sure you are not confusing "protestants" with the pope, the majority of bishops at the recent synod, the VAST majority of contemporary and recent Catholic theologians, the VASTER majority of faculty at "Catholic" schools and universities, "faith community" parish priests and ministers of trivial pursuits ?

Read, for one example, Massimo Faggioli, whose books are among other things clearing-houses for progressive thinking and strategery. You cannot blame protestants for ignoring "official statements of [Catholic] doctrine" when most members of the Catholic hierarchy do the same thing.

All the energy of Catholic leaders today is directed toward "saving the appearance" of consistency of doctrine with V2 "pastoralism" while at the same time subverting the former to bolster the latter. The guru of ecclesiastical "style," John J O'Malley, writes that ""Vatican II intended to make some fundamental changes in the way the Church operates and that those changes, should they be put into practice, would do much to address our current situation and give us confidence in the future. Perhaps the main reason [the entire "Spirit of V2" agenda has] not been put into practice is that the radical nature of the council has never been accepted or understood. Vatican II, for all its continuity with previous councils [!!], was unique in many ways but nowhere more than in its call for an across-the-board change in church procedures, or, better, in church style." (brackets Ralph's)

The typical response, even from O'Malley himself, is that doctrine and "procedures" are two entirely different things, the latter being a mere "style," or "affectation" based on the changing circumstances of the world. But this is a disingenuous notion. Were it true, there would have been no issue in throwing off the "uniform" TLM in favor of the many moods of Novus Ordo celebration. Were it true, the unique graces of Extreme Unction would not have been thrown off in favor of the "style" of community "hands in the air" blessing. Etc. In truth, the key to neutralizing doctrine is to reduce the manner of its communication to the level of dispensible "style." “Across the board change in Church procedures” are stones in the passway between Catholics and Catholic doctrine.

George said...

The irony is that Faggioli and O'Malley very probably speak for far more mainline conservative Catholics than the latter realize or would ever admit to themselves, most certainly in terms of the doctrine-eviscerating PRACTICES from the new Mass to devotional habits and conventions of conversation about their faith.

You have a knack for cutting to the heart of the matter, Ralph. Appreciate your input.

Anonymous said...

Evangelical David Wells wrote "Revolution in Rome" in 1973. He clearly saw the implications of De Lubac and company, even while Catholic leaders were assuring everyone nothing in Vatican II changed anything of substance. But then John Paul II's old Polish, conservative-harkening stances on female ordination and sexual morality gave the world the impression that Vatican II activists were over-reaching, and that VII, like any Council, was at heart a red-blooded Catholic affair [much like Francis insists about the recent Synod]. But if you read Wells now against the Communio crowd, with an honest recognition of preconciliar theology, it is quite plain Wells is right and that Vatican II soterology is plainly modernistic, no mater how you slice it. Gone is any real Christian exclusivism. Which matter-of-factly explains the overnight evaporation of Catholic missionary overtures. Meanwhile Vatican II critics are painted as Savonarolas, and Vatican II Popes get named Man of the Year by TIME and THE ADVOCATE, while Cardinals of New York tell gay celebrities "bravo" for coming out. Walker Percy couldn't imagine a more absurd narrative.

And yet we have the balls to make fun of the Episcopalians! Catholics today ... not only historically uninformed, but also mind-numbingly unself-aware.

Dark Horse said...

Vary sad.