The Queue Is Long

I have written several posts here about Jason and the Callers’ apparent ignorance of the regular Roman Catholic world (as opposed to their knowledge of Denzinger). I now understand that the trail of Protestant-turned-Roman-Catholic apologists is as long as the Phillies are behind the Nationals. For instance, Patrick Madrid has made a cottage industry in the publishing world of what Bryan Cross has done with the testimonies at Called To Communion.

But Mark Shea’s recent interview in America reveals how long, how American and how unremarkable to the papacy that line of convert-turned-apologist-and-blogger is:

Other people call me that, but I don’t think of myself as an apologist. Catholic apologetics in our culture is often addressed to Protestant evangelicals, where a lot of people from a Protestant background like Scott Hahn, Jimmy Akin and Steve Ray try to explain to our former friends why we became Catholics. There is a huge wave of American converts who owe a debt to people like Karl Keating who reached out to us in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Francis hasn’t indicated any particular interest in this trend, but neither did John Paul or Benedict. It’s a strongly American Catholic thing. But Catholic Answers has made an impact around the world, as young Catholic lay evangelists from around the world often email me to say they’ve been downloading our stuff and using it in a variety of ways.

As far as I know, no pope, including this one, has ever undertaken to address this particular apologetics subculture. There is no Letter to the Apologists from the pope. Nor do I expect there to be or feel the need for one. I don’t expect Francis to have a particular impact on the apologetics subculture, other than being a shepherd and teacher we take as a model, and I’m O.K. with that. But I think what Pope Francis has done, at least for people like me who try to defend the faith, is give us a new opportunity to defend the pope from Catholics who fear him—and that’s a weird experience for me! I never thought I’d find myself in the ironic position of having to defend the pope from fellow Catholics who loved John Paul and Benedict. Right now, much of the apologetics writing I do is to support Pope Francis when he teaches things the church has always said, but which for some reason we haven’t really grasped until now, and which strike dark fears into the hearts of Catholics who, well, really ought to know better.

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18 thoughts on “The Queue Is Long

  1. Maybe the infallible rule of interpreting an infallible pope is when there’s a question about the true and full sense of something a pope says (did believe what Francis just said?), it must be searched and known (i.e. explained in a way that harmonizes) by other previous infallible popes who spoke more clearly (i.e. said something very different). It does keep all the RC apologists in business…

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  2. Given Rome’s sacerdotalism, there really isn’t a place for laity to do any significant ministry. The real important ministry work is reserved for the priests and those who take religious vows. If you come into Roman Catholicism and yet still want to believe in something akin to the priesthood of all believers, it seems that the whole CTC project makes perfect sense. With their seminary training and “expertise” only in matters religious, the only way left for them to have any kind of significant use of their backgrounds is in the whole business of squaring the circle. But Rome doesn’t care. There is no priesthood of all believers, so what CTC does may be useful in some sense for the Roman church in attracting a certain kind of convert, but their project is finally irrelevant. They don’t have the priestly charism.

    The whole CTC project strikes me as a bunch of RCs who are trying to keep Protestant assumptions that they must jettison in order to be truly Romanist. Presumably, they all went to seminary in the first place because they felt some kind of call and wanted to “make their mark” (I don’t mean that pejoratively) as a shepherd of Christ’s sheep. But they actually forfeit that when they convert (unless they become a priest or something). There isn’t a real place in Rome where they can fit, so they have to carve out this niche as Internet apologists. IOW, they haven’t become truly Roman Catholic but rather a strange hybrid of those who hold to Romanist soteriology and Protestant sensibilities when it comes to lay ministry. But these things cannot fit. You can’t join non-Scriptural soteriology with a view of the role of the laity that is defined not really by Rome but by the vestiges of one’s Protestant training.

    This is why in real life, all the RCs I have known sound radically different than the CTC guys. It’s also why even the lifelong RCs who are attracted to CTC still come across as promoting a RC that one must “feel” more than define rationally. Hence the whole culture thing. Rome isn’t a religion driven primarily by dogma, no matter how much it or CTC wants to say otherwise. It’s something you have to feel. It’s based on intuition, not exegesis or theological argumentation. That’s why, I think, it has been so easy for it to go all postmodern on us. It’s a religion primarily of feeling, not one based around the redemptive acts of Christ and their inspired Apostolic interpretation.

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  3. Robert – a notable exception to what you are saying might be Richard John Neuhaus who, having been a Lutheran minister troubled by the protestant view of justification (sola fide), crossed over to RC and became quite prominent – especially his roll in the ECT debacle.

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  4. I think it was the Thomism/natural law scholar J. Budziszewski–a convert from Protestantism–who said he was always mystified that the Catholics he knew never tried much to “convert” him. When he asked he was told it’s not culturally an American Catholic thing, and given America’s proud history of anti-Catholicism, I can rather see why. Bad enough they owed allegiance to a foreign prince and had the wrong Bible. Add trying to stick their hooks into you–and your children!–and it would have been open war.

    Since the Peace of Westphalia or whenever, I would think a certain “no-poach” detente evolved, mostly violated today only by the newer “evangelicals.” Otherwise the “Catholic” countries are still nominally Catholic, and it’s true of Protestant northern Europe as well. As for the recent popes, they especially seem to observe the proprieties, especially with the the theology that Protestants are more or less part of the Pope’s One True Church anyway, confused but only formally separated.

    Is there a history of Catholics trying to poach Protestants? If Edgardo Mortara had been a baptized Protestant, you wouldn’t have much of an issue there because the Vatican would have been unconcerned.

    BTW, I read today that Africa has more Anglicans and Presbyterians than in the caucasoid world. Fortunately, unlike Catholicism, American Protestantism operates on the independent franchise model, so if you don’t like the prescribed menu changes, you can just start up your own place down the street and still call it Old Orthodox McDonalds or St. Ronald’s Burgers and Wienies. Whose McDonalds is it anyway?

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  5. Tom,

    BTW, I read today that Africa has more Anglicans and Presbyterians than in the caucasoid world. Fortunately, unlike Catholicism, American Protestantism operates on the independent franchise model, so if you don’t like the prescribed menu changes, you can just start up your own place down the street and still call it Old Orthodox McDonalds or St. Ronald’s Burgers and Wienies. Whose McDonalds is it anyway?

    Whose Roman Catholicism is it? Apparently, Rome thinks it is Pelosi’s Romanism, CTC’s Romanism, the Council of Women Religious’ Romanism, Vatican I’s Romanism, Mother Teresa’s Romanism, etc. All of those groups are welcome at the table.

    Of course, there are also plenty of RCs who if they don’t like it can start their own denomination. What’s the “principled reason” for accepting the Vatican as the true expression of Roman Catholicism over the Old Catholic Churches who reject V2. Because the Vatican says so? That might fly for Prot-converts to Rome, but not for those who want tProt-converts to apply their own standards to their own church.

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  6. Jason & The Callers are like the teacher’s pets who want nothing more than to be thrown a bone by those in authority, meanwhile Pope Francis showers love & attention on the delinquents in the back row who only bother to come to class on the rare occasions when they’re not out smoking in the woods behind the school…

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  7. Mark Shea is a beautiful illustration of what is wrong in the neocatholic world. Complete and total denial of reality. For5 once Sean and i agree… most of these people have no idea of the crises they have inherited…. especially of they converted during the reign of B16

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  8. “Whose Roman Catholicism is it? Apparently, Rome thinks it is Pelosi’s Romanism, CTC’s Romanism, the Council of Women Religious’ Romanism, Vatican I’s Romanism, Mother Teresa’s Romanism, etc. All of those groups are welcome at the table.”

    Boom goes the dynamite! Rome majors in inconsistencies. Called to confusion indeed.

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  9. Robert
    Posted September 22, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink
    Tom,

    BTW, I read today that Africa has more Anglicans and Presbyterians than in the caucasoid world. Fortunately, unlike Catholicism, American Protestantism operates on the independent franchise model, so if you don’t like the prescribed menu changes, you can just start up your own place down the street and still call it Old Orthodox McDonalds or St. Ronald’s Burgers and Wienies. Whose McDonalds is it anyway?

    Whose Roman Catholicism is it? Apparently, Rome thinks it is Pelosi’s Romanism, CTC’s Romanism, the Council of Women Religious’ Romanism, Vatican I’s Romanism, Mother Teresa’s Romanism, etc. All of those groups are welcome at the table.

    Of course, there are also plenty of RCs who if they don’t like it can start their own denomination. What’s the “principled reason” for accepting the Vatican as the true expression of Roman Catholicism over the Old Catholic Churches who reject V2. Because the Vatican says so? That might fly for Prot-converts to Rome, but not for those who want tProt-converts to apply their own standards to their own church.

    Why, yes, it is the Vatican’s, or more properly the Magisterium’s. Quite autocratic, it’s true, but the alternative is Democratic Christianity, and democracy scares the bejesus out of any sane man. If forced to choose between Vatican 2 and the recent madness @PCUSA, well, that’s an interesting question, eh?

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  10. Tom,

    Why, yes, it is the Vatican’s, or more properly the Magisterium’s. Quite autocratic, it’s true, but the alternative is Democratic Christianity, and democracy scares the bejesus out of any sane man. If forced to choose between Vatican 2 and the recent madness @PCUSA, well, that’s an interesting question, eh?

    But what good is autocracy if it doesn’t enforce its own authority? To borrow a phrase from the esteemed Dr. Cross, “What is the principled reason by which you distinguish your opinion of what Rome means from what Rome actually means?”

    If you want to deal with the actual reality on the ground in Rome, the debate might be worth having. This is Darryl’s point. As it is, Roman Catholicism post V2 is as democratic as any Protestant denomination (more so, I would say, because a body like the OPC actually enforces its dogma via church discipline). When more than half of RCs practice birth control, for example, you have a situation that will inevitably terminate in the kind of madness of the PCUSA. Rome’s leaders aren’t stupid. That whole charism of the laity thing will work to actually change dogma once it becomes clear that to discipline will cut the church in half. Rome’s actually already discovered that, which is why they don’t do anything. It’s only a matter of time before practice becomes dogma. What we practice will become what we preach if it is not addressed.

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  11. His Sheaness acting like a cradle:

    one of the ironies of the Greatest Catholics of All Time is the way in which they mirror Protestant Fundamentalism. Only their proof texts are encyclicals, or beloved mystics, or favorite passages from some saint or theologian. But the purpose is always the same: to insist on a flat contradiction between the pre- and post-Vatican II Church (typically on some matter where there is not really a contradiction, as here) and then to demand that we choose betwen the Real Church (i.e., the Church of the Reactionary’s imagination) or the alleged heretical “modernist” Church (i.e. the actual Catholic Church).

    Curiously, this is almost always driven by a burning rigorist *need* to believe that virtually the entire Church, as well as the entire world beyond the Church, is damned. Not a fear of their damnation, but an intense desire for it. Sure they may *say* they don’t want people to go to hell. But the reality is that they deeply desire it and make very clear that if it doesn’t happen, then “it was a *waste* to be a Catholic.”

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  12. So glad we were not included on the team out there with Brady. Vicarious substitution. The Patriots Instead of us, not the Patriots Plus us as the 12th….

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  13. The apologists are never as realistic as Boniface who once again puts the real in realistic:

    The constant assignment of a particular theme to each year by the Holy Father is a modern phenomenon begun, I believe, under John Paul II. It has grown extremely tiresome. Does anything positive truly come out of these annual assignments? Are Catholics any more knowledgeable about St. Paul after the 2008-2009 “Year of St. Paul”? I seriously doubt it. Like World Youth Day, this “Year of” phenomenon seems to be more about feeling good than accomplishing anything enduring.

    At the beginning of the crisis in the Ukraine, Pope Francis had two Ukrainian children release doves as a prayer for peace in the Ukraine. The doves were immediately set upon and killed by a crow and a seagull; the whole episode was caught on film (see pictures at the top of this post).

    A similar phenomenon happens with these “Year of” designations. Whatever topic the Holy Father assigns for a year, the Church ends up suffering severe attacks and setbacks in that area. The Year of the Priest saw global assaults on the priesthood; the Year of Faith saw an unprecedented advance of militant atheism; and the Year of the Consecrated Life has witnessed, among other things, the destruction of the FFI.

    If Bryan Lacrosse could ever summon up this kind of honesty, I’d take him seriously (don’t need to worry about Jason anymore).

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