Is the Last Acceptable Prejudice No More?

I like Ross Douthat and all, but the inside Roman Catholic baseball discussions of divorce at his New York Times blog — NEW YORK friggin’ TIMES!! — are perhaps more appropriate for a parochial website like CTC than at the place for all that’s fit to print. Here’s a recent sampling. First Douthat quotes Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry:

I think this is a grace we often overlook. God’s law is as hard as His mercy is infinite. And none of us are righteous under the law. And none of us, if we are honest, can even be said to want to be righteous under the law, in every single dimension of our life. But, particularly in these delicate and demanding aspects of sexual life and life situations, the grace of wanting to want God’s will is already very precious and important. And is it not in those phases, where we are broken down, and all we can muster the strength to pray for is to want to want, or even to want to want to want, that the Church should be most present with the succor of her sacraments?

… If I am a divorced-remarried-unchaste person and, during the eucharistic liturgy, I cry out in my heart, “O Lord! I do not understand your law, and I do not have the will to follow it, but I love you, and I beg you for forgiveness of my sins and the grace to want to want to follow in your footsteps and to be able to humbly receive your body”, is this a contrition that is “sufficient” for me to be able to receive the Body of Christ?

I think so.

Douthat replies in part:

Whatever the complexities and shades-of-gray involved in human sin, it is very clear in Catholic teaching that the medicinal effect, the “succor” of communion, is inseparable (like a two-dose drug) from the succor of a good confession, and you simply can’t make a good confession, and thus be in a position to benefit spiritually from communion, if you don’t intend to take some positive step to separate yourself from a gravely sinful situation or arrangement. To use a higher-stakes version of the professional case Gobry references — if you work at a job that by its nature requires grave sin for full participation (let’s say, I dunno, you’re a lieutenant for the Wolf of Wall Street in his salad days), and you make a confession of sin but have no plan of any kind to disassociate yourself from the business, your confession is by definition insufficient, and saying “I do not have the will to stop defrauding people, Lord, but I pray to gain it” is a sign that you should be praying and not communing.

The same logic, then, would apply to someone in an institutional arrangement that amounts to public adultery under the church’s definitions. You need not have the full desire to change (of course everything is grayer than a term like “perfect contrition” might suggest), but the desire to have the desire is not enough: You need to have some intention to change your life, some idea of alteration, to confess and commune in good conscience.

Can anyone possibly imagine a Reformed Protestant writer for the New York Times blogging about union with Christ or the ordo salutis and the bearing of these debates on denominational politics with reference to American citizens that belong to NAPARC communions? If not, then why do some argue that the anti-Catholic prejudice still exists in the United States? I am well aware that it used to and I can well imagine Paul Blanshard‘s jaws tightening if he were to encounter Douthat while surfing the Times’ webpages. But Ross Douthat free and frequent comments on Roman Catholic faith and practice at the newspaper considered one of the most secular in the nation sure needs to be added to the calculations of anti-Catholic prejudice.

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  1. Alexander
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:12 am | Permalink


    For a start you’re the one who keeps changing the confession. My church still holds to the original WCF- and not just as lip service.

    Second, mormonism is more than mere heterodoxy- it’s a different religion. I don’t know how you can sit blithely by and say that your heathen or Mormon friends may find salvation through extraordinary means. That clause about salvation within the church is not there as a license to leave people where they are. But then you view everything through what licence it gives you to do what you want so I don’t know why I’m surprised. But Mormons and Romanists are not merely “outside the church”- they are actively pursuing a road that will lead to their ruin.

    And third: it was Mr. Hart who said he has stopped referring to himself as an elder because of its association with mormonism! Where’s the snippy, oh so precious retort to him?

  2. Zrim
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Alexander, single persons do not change confessions, Reformed churches and denominations amend them. And they do so because they believe them fallible. I wonder just how Reformed are those who have never sought to amend fallible documents and even brag about their untouched originality.

    I don’t know how you’re distinguishing heterodoxy from “another religion.” Heterodoxy is to depart from or otherwise be at doctrinal variance with orthodoxy. Yours sounds like a hyper-distinction and another variant of proving too much, i.e. “cult, another religion.” I don’t know how you’re getting from my points that those outside the church “may find salvation through extraordinary means.” But if there are hypocrites within then it only makes sense that there are sheep without. Nobody but God alone knows who either are, and it is only for us to define the church and call all persons to her, at once assuming the best of those who cleave without controversy and maintaining a due caution for those who persist in remaining outside.

    What is the problem with distancing oneself from Mormonism by way of language? More power to Darryl for it. It’s why we should drop, for example, terms like “worship hall” for “sanctuary” since it sounds so JW-ish (sorry, C-Dubs), or “foyer” for “narthex” since it sounds so secular. But I’m also not entirely convinced of Darryl’s linguistic reasoning–“elder” has a distinctively P&R sense to my ear, while “bishop” actually sounds more Charismatic as in Bishop and Senior Pastor TD Jakes at the Charismatic Church of Everlasting Joy in Christ Megachurch Potter’s House of God and Conference Center.

  3. Posted May 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Now I’m confused. When Mitt Romney was running for President I was assured by die-hard Republican Dutch Calvinists that he worshipped the same god as we did. Now that he’s returned to private life he may have been downgraded, though.

  4. Zrim
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    Erik, that was to get you feeling religiously ok with politically voting for Romney — you know, because of worldview having to get theory and practice synced up. But the SBCers knew what was what:

  5. kent
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    When Romney announced, I was looking forward to the media entering the realm of Mormonism and providing ANY reporting at all on his history, vows, ceremonies he must have undertaken as a big player.

    that was a big mistake thinking the media was going to lift a finger to report anything at all…

  6. Posted May 13, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Whatever Grim. S’long as you understand what you are sayin’ nobody else has to.
    IOW I’ll let let let, i.e. sometimes the connotation becomes the definition.

    As in welcome to reality.

    You’re welcome.

    You need to talk to Leithart.

  7. Alexander
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Permalink


    Well, you don’t hold to the LC’s application of the 7th Commandment and as far as I’m aware that hasn’t been officially altered by the OPC. Maybe it has?

    I define heterodox a group or person who would be found within a Christian body- or could be reasonably argued to be within such- but who holds views at odds with orthodoxy. Ergo, a charismatic could be described as heterodox. I wouldn’t label a mohammedin as heteredox though. Mormons are not within the visible church; their distinctive doctrines are clearly at odds with the teaching of the Bible and therefore any doctrines they hold which may sound orthodox are made void by association. But this word play really is ridiculous.

    Of course there are sheep outwith the visible church- which is why we should be praying for them to be brought in not saying “well, they’re a mormon so they make good neighbours, they live a “moral” life so I’ll leave them be. Who am I to say they should lay aside their heretical religion and seek Christ within the visible church?” You are happy with your neighbours carrying on in delusion; I’m not.

    So, it’s ok for Mr. Hart to distance himself from mormonism by using a term everyone associates with Romanism, but when I argued I’d rather take the time to explain the term elder than use the term bishop I’m being offensive and divisive to mormons?! Again: you are the one who used the term cult in relation to mormonism first: in a post criticising me for my divisive language (note I have never actually called mormonism a cult in this discussion). This whole argument- which you have manufactured- is because you brought up the term cult. This is clearly another example of your “Alexander says x so I must say the opposite of x” syndrome. You want to talk about the power of language, here is a prime example: how to start a non-argument by inserting divisive and combative language into a discussion in order to tell your opponent not to use divisive and combative language.

  8. Zrim
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Alexander, you’re getting a little too exercised over here. My original comment wasn’t to say you were being divisive and offensive–it was really a tangential point. But if you want to keep this a-going… Your definition of heterodox seems too latitudinarian. To be at odds with orthodoxy is to be unorthodox. You may not like it, but some of us are simply content with slotting Mormonism as heretical and outside the pale of Christian orthodoxy and don’t quite understand the need to bluster and fume about its extra special hide-the-women-and-children aberrations.

    The point isn’t to be spiritually unconcerned for the lost. It’s to be concerned for not slandering the names and reputations of perfectly good neighbors and citizens, which is what most Mormons are. It’s possible to be concerned for both the spiritually lost and their earthly reputations, but you seem unable to grasp that and more inclined to conflate some religiously unorthodox with anti-social groups.

  9. Alexander
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    But I didn’t slander them. That’s why I’m getting “exercised”. If anything my original post was more favourable towards Mormons than Romanists. What did I say that was “slanderous”? It couldn’t have been using the word Mormon since you also use it. I don’t Mormons can be good neighbours; but I also see that they are dead in trespasses and sins and in need of Christ. You came after me; I merely defended myself.

  10. Alexander
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Where did I conflate Mormons with anti-social groups? Give me the quote please. I did not use the word cult. My beef is that terms like “religiously unorthodox” are euphemistic and we cannot afford euphemisms when it comes to our eternal destiny.

    You’re so concerned with the reputation of “the Mormons” well I’m concerned for my reputation. So please quote what in my original post was slanderous and conflating of Mormons with anti-social groups.

  11. Alexander
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Correction: my first response to you implied I viewed mormonism as a cult. I didn’t say it in a declarative statement but a straight forward reading would read it as such and I wanna keep the scales balanced. My apologies.

    Still like to know what slander my original post contained.

  12. Posted May 14, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Alex, you gotta unnerstan sumpin.
    Way back when a certin sumbody who wurked in the public sckool system was exercised about Christian folks going to law to prevent their 4th graid chillun from being indoctrinated with LGBT*^%$# propaganda in the public/guvernment skool, Oakland Calif. to be exact.
    In that it was not quite the propper thing to do.
    So you got to read sum of the innerchanges of opiyuns in that light.
    Straining gnats and swallowing horse manure kamels.

    Or you can do it like Jason Stellman does it and just not read my thair posts.
    Leastways that’s what he does to me, but you haf to axe him if it wurks cause he doesn’t answer my calls.
    It’s not fare, I no, but that’s life. Siesta la’ vee or sumpthin like that.


  13. Zrim
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Alexander, you’re making this all about you. I am not “going after you.” I am making a more general point about language in relation to certain groups of people, not what you personally have or have not done.

    It is one thing to rightly maintain the heretical charge of Mormonism. It is another to rightly protect the reputation of our particular Mormon neighbors, and it would seem that in order to do that we might exercise more restraint in using a loaded sociological term to describe them (cult/ists). Maybe keep the term reserved for those who do things like prey on the weak, take their money, claim sexual rights to their spouses, disconnect them from their families, and finally serve them up laced Kool-Aid as bullets graze their heads. Feel me now?

  14. Posted May 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Let’s see if we can go 500 comments on whether or not Mormonism is a cult.

    Either that or let’s go outside and notice it’s a nice spring day.

  15. Posted May 14, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Erik, or maybe just enjoy Sexy Sax Man:

  16. Alexander
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    So, Zrim, you just decided to hijack my onnocuous question to Mr. Hart to make your own point? Well when I’m accused of being uncharitable and slandering people’s reputations it kinda does become about me. And FYI, whether someone knows Christ is more important to me than whether they have a good reputation in the eyes of the world.

    So, sorry, I’m not going to give into your usual bullying and ridiculing tactics which you employ against those with whom you disagree. You slandered me and I’m not going to forget about it.

  17. Zrim
    Posted May 14, 2014 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    Alexander, thanks, glad the point landed. Now I can go enjoy the spring day Erik is having.

  18. Posted May 14, 2014 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    If Zrim is a bully then tickling someone with a feather is the same as beating them with a truncheon.

  19. Posted May 15, 2014 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    So, sorry, I’m not going to give into your usual bullying . . . which you employ against those with whom you disagree.

    I’d say ding ding ding, but then I’d be called a ding a ling.

    I had Mormon missionaries for neighbors for awhile. Nice folks, but they don’t cotton real well to the fact that Mormonism is not Christian, ergo they are not . . . .
    Same goes for Rome and Romanists, though they add to the truth, while Mormonism never had it.


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