Thursday, March 22, 2018

“Catholic Converts”: Come Back Home to Genuine (Protestant) Christianity

C.S. Lewis gave this reason for why he never became a Roman Catholic:

“The real reason why I cannot be in communion with you [Catholics] is not my disagreement with this or that Roman doctrine, but that to accept your Church means, not to accept a given body of doctrine, but to accept in advance any doctrine your Church hereafter produces. It is like being asked to agree not only to what a man has said but also to what he is going to say.” From “Christian Reunion”, in Christian Reunion and Other Essays, edited by Walter Hooper, London: Collins, 1990, p. 17-18.

This statement becomes more of a fulfilled prophecy all the time, especially as we begin to see the fruit of the “Pope Francis” papacy.

Now that conservative Roman Catholics (and the ones we know are mostly the converts from Protestantism) are lamenting, in fact, holding conferences, to “Address the Crisis of Confusion in the Church”. Here is one announcement by the milquetoast “National Catholic Register”:

Lay faithful as well as members of the hierarchy, clergy and religious are being invited to participate in a Rome conference aimed at helping the Church find its way after the uncertainties of the past five years of Pope Francis’ pontificate (emphasis added).

The organizers, a group of Italian Catholics known as the “Friends of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra,” say the April 7 meeting will be on the theme: “Catholic Church: Where Are You Heading?”

Its subtitle, “Only a blind man can deny that there is great confusion in the Church,” is taken from comments Cardinal Caffarra made in an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Foglio in January 2017.

This publication almost never says anything bad about this pope, precisely because he is pope. Their sense of alarm must truly be great to be publicizing a thing like this.

Here is how the Italian journalist Sandro Magister announces it:

It is confirmed. Next April 7, the Saturday of Easter Week, a very special conference will be held in Rome. The intention of which will be to show the Catholic Church the way to go, after the uncertain journey of the first five years of the pontificate of Pope Francis (emphasis added).

The reckoning of this five-year period, in fact, is rather critical, to judge from the title of the conference:

“Catholic Church, where are you going?”

And even more so if one looks at the subtitle: “Only a blind man can deny that in the Church there is great confusion.” This is taken from a statement of Cardinal Carlo Caffarra (1938-2017), not forgotten as an endorser, together with other cardinals, of those “dubia” submitted in 2016 to Pope Francis for the purpose of bringing clarity on the most controversial points of his magisterium, but which he has left without a response.

In a Church seen as being set adrift, the key question that the conference will confront will be precisely that of redefining the leadership roles of the “people of God,” the characteristics and limitations of the authority of the pope and the bishops, the forms of consultation of the faithful in matters of doctrine.

Bergoglio and his cast of cardinals and bishops, the “leadership roles”, are the ones causing the confusion, and yet these are the very “pope and bishops” that Michael Liccione and other “Catholic Converts” so strenuously have defended over the years as provided precisely the epistemological certainty that one needs to be a Christian.

I wanted to reproduce this entire blog post, “Papal Infallibility is a cause for confusion”, because it is short, and because it was something that I posted just about two months prior to the accession of “Pope Francis”.

“Papal Infallibility” is not a point of unity even among conservative Roman Catholics.

Michael Liccione said:

What is at issue is whether any church is ever divinely protected from doctrinal error, not moral error, under certain conditions.

Elsewhere he described one component of this:

“In Catholic theology, it is not even a matter of dispute that the definition of 1870 [of “papal infallibility”] applies to Pius IX’s definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854, and indeed to every papal ratification of conciliar dogmatic decrees set forth to bind the whole Church, going back to the 4th century” (emphasis added).

Other Roman Catholics say rather, “Yes, it is a matter of dispute”:

“How many times has the pope taught ex cathedra, or ‘from the chair’ of Peter? How many ex cathedra papal statements have there been, and what are they? . . . Different Roman Catholic apologists have asserted very divergent numbers of infallible papal statements. . . . It depends on which apologist you ask….

Of course, the “apologists you ask” aren’t the standard, but the fact that even self-described “conservative” Roman Catholics disagree is telling [never mind all those “Liberal” Catholics who may or may not be real Catholics].

You all have “the one true teaching”, which is infallibly correct, but even on this absolutely fundamental question, the question which you say shows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Roman Catholics may absolutely and infallibly make the distinction between “divine revelation and human opinion”, on this most fundamental of foundations, there is confusion.

What good on earth is the “infallible Magisterium” if it can’t answer this fundamental question? What good is having the “basis for making a principled distinction between divine revelation and human opinion”, if even that “basis” doesn’t work out in real life?

Now that “Pope Francis” is passing his five-years-as-pope mark, the things we’ve been saying to Roman Catholic apologists are just super-abundantly clear.

Perhaps these Roman Catholics will take comfort in the “Alias Smith and Jones” defense: “For all the trains and banks that this Magisterium has robbed, they never taught anyone (promulgated a new teaching)”.

But what kind of a way is that to regard an infallible “Church”?

To all of you “Catholic Converts” from Protestantism, I ask, “why not come back home to genuine Biblical Christianity?


  1. For those of us who don’t follow the Roman Catholic church very closely, could you provide a list of the ways that the newest pope is causing confusion? Thanks.

  2. So is this a good summary?:

    The Pope is creating a distinction between church doctrine and pastoral practice.

    With regard to pastoral practice:

    Divorce and Remarriage – the remarried can now take communion without having their first marriage annulled.

    Same-sex marriage – the church may (eventually) bless same sex marriage.

    Euthanasia – a person can now receive the last rites before committing suicide.

    Are those the major issues/changes? I’d like some conversation starters with Roman Catholic acquaintances.

    1. You can think of "creating a distinction" along the lines of "driving a wedge". The "church doctrines" have been reinforced in recent years by the two popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Essentially what this pope is doing is winking and nodding at those "doctrines", suggesting that "if you have pastoral reasons for not adhering to those doctrines, go right ahead and don't adhere to them."

      There is one official document where this is the case -- the famous footnote 308 to the document "Amoris Laetitia", which basically is a reversal (fir those who want to "interpret" it this way), of a centuries-long prohibition on allowing the "divorced and civilly remarried" (and without having a church annulment of the marriage) CAN now receive the sacraments of confession and communion, based on a pastoral assessment.

      This is causing conservative Catholics like Douthat (and a bunch of others) to sound alarms. While Amoris Latetia is the only "official" document where this sort of backing-off has occurred, Bergoglio has given a bunch of other informal interviews suggesting that such loosening is not only needed, but wanted, in today's Roman Catholic Church.

      What's genuinely alarming is that this pope, also, has the opportunity to "stack the deck" among Cardinals who will be voting for the next pope. With enough of them (and he is close), he can assure that the next pope (and on into the future) will be like-minded about these "reforms".

      This essentially stretches even further a process that was begun with Vatican II -- which was, to write documents in such a way that these loose interpretations can occur. While the two previous popes wanted to say, "no, we really mean 'the old way'", this pope is going all-out to emphasize "let's be progressive and 'merciful' about this".


      Douthat's full article (linked within the OP) goes into more detail:

    2. Sorry for the misprint, it's footnote 351 for Chapter 8.

  3. Thank you for what you write about the RC church, John. A long time ago I decided to remain Protestant, and your writings influenced me greatly.

    1. Federico, thank you so much for letting me know!!

    2. Frederico,

      May you be strengthened in these convictions. The Roman communion teaches many false doctrines, even damnable ones.