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The Treason Of The Clerics

A Catholic reader e-mails:

I learned that the ecumenical service held around Thanksgiving at my parish had an open communion. That the priest actually asked and encouraged anyone and everyone to share in the Eucharist. And plans to do this more often in the future.

I know from some perspectives this isn’t a big deal. But it was literally like someone punched me in the gut. I was sick. I was on the verge of tears the entire Mass.

I lost friends over converting to the Catholic Church. A lot of them. While I can’t prove it, I am certain my conversion cost me a job I loved. Everyone at work treated me differently after I started attending the local Catholic church, despite always treating ever with kindness, respect, and camaraderie regardless of their faith or sexual orientation.

I lost a lot for believing in the Eucharist. Not just the time I spent in RCIA or the mental labor of learning a new theology, liturgy, and vocabulary. I lost people I loved, people I had been good friends with for years, for whom this was a bridge too far. From the friends who didn’t abandon me I have to overlook slights in order to preserve the relationship.

There are so many Catholic priests who hate the church. Who are embarrassed to be priests. Who remove their collars at the first opportunity and go out of their way to be more inclusive of Methodists than of the Catholics in the next parish. Who turn their parishes into silos, and treat the other parishes around them like the enemy. Who subvert the faith but defend the institution.

And then they blame the loss in parishioners and income on the abuse scandal. If there was no scandal they would have no excuse. And the scandal makes them more embarrassed and angry at the church, and so they subvert the faith more.

I’m heartbroken not because I’m greedy and arrogant and want to keep things away from non-Catholics, but because if the Eucharist is what we say it is then it deserves respect. It deserves to be recognized, sacrificed for, and reverenced. It isn’t a party favor.

I’m told the open communion was well-received. I can tell you it will not lead to any conversions or new parishioners. Why would you make any effort to receive something given so carelessly and freely? Doesn’t it just serve to prove that even Catholics don’t believe in transubstantiation?

I love the idea that we are One Body. I’d love it if the parishes supported each other and held joint events. I don’t want division. I don’t want retreat. Being an “other” is a stressful and unpleasant way to live. Being Catholic is different enough without being a conservative Catholic, or a Ben Op Catholic, or Orthodox.

But here I am trying to decide if I will leave my parish, and if it would do any good to explain to my priest why I am leaving. And where do I go? There is a parish faithful to the Magisterium I’ve visited, whose priest and deacon are not afraid to say that premarital sex is wrong, and the priest proudly wears a cassock so there is no mistake in his vocation. But to be truly active in that parish means moving. Moving is such a BenOp thing to do. It feels drastic. True, it would make my commute shorter, but I’ve been happy to make the drive because I like my parish and my town. Liked.

In a way, Orthodoxy is a simpler choice. Or at least it looks that way at this point in time, and that’s far too simplistic a view to be true.

Right now I just feel I got pushed out of relationships and a job by my love for the Catholic Church, and now that very parish I gave my heart to is pushing me out. It hurts really bad. I know I have to leave. I had liked we were middle-of-the-road, and my elderly priest being a bit of a rebel was kind of funny and endearing. And I’ve left Mass angry before and questioned whether I should “bloom where I’m planted.” I don’t want to be one of those “rigid young people.” I want enough room in my Catholicism for some give and take, but the Eucharist isn’t about a preference for a form. It’s the cornerstone.

Why isn’t the Catholic Church satisfied with just being Catholic?

That’s a question that is impossible to answer. But boy, is it a good one. It’s one that occurred to me often over my years as a Catholic. In an e-mail back to this reader, I said that I found it fairly easy to suffer for the Catholic Church, but very difficult to suffer from the Catholic Church. Though things are changing fast, for now, for faithful orthodox Catholics, there is much more of the latter.

(For the record, Orthodox priests are zealous about guarding the communion chalice. If you are visiting a parish where you are not known, it is a good idea to communicate to the priest in advance who you are, and that you have had a recent confession. Otherwise, he is likely not to commune you — this, not out of any hostility, but out of care for your soul.)

Over the weekend, I posted a couple of things (here [1] and the follow-up here [2]) in which Matthew Schmitz (a traditionalist Catholic and a convert) and I had a friendly exchange about Catholic triumphalism. I should clarify that I do not consider it to be “triumphalist” for a Catholic, or anybody else, to believe that their church or religious tradition is more correct about eternal truths than others. This is perfectly normal. Triumphalism, at least as I see it, is more like a mode of believing in one’s faith. A way that involves pride and self-satisfaction. I know how this goes, because I used to be that kind of Catholic. Not all Catholics are triumphalists, but I sure was. It was a long, hard fall from the top of the triumphal arch.

Contemporary Catholic talk about how leaving Catholicism is abandoning the “highest” and the “best” does not reckon with the awful fact that the experience of this reader is the experience of Catholicism for very many people. Or worse.

I texted over the weekend with a European friend with whom I had not been in touch for a couple of decades. Over the course of our conversation, I revealed to him that since we had last been in touch, I had left Catholicism. He said he had too. It turns out that a kid he had once been an altar boy with told him that Father had molested him back then. My friend said it was “just dumb luck” that he wasn’t attacked also. He has learned, as have we all, that rapey Father was not unusual, and that bishops have known about dirty priests like him for a long time, and done little or nothing about it. My friend couldn’t take any of it seriously after that. He told me that he misses certain things, but that he is not going to take his young sons into the Church, as he regards the Catholic priesthood as “a refuge for homosexuals and child molesters.”

I appreciate that this friend does not equate homosexuals with child molesters. The two are not the same thing. But he is not wrong at all to intuit that a secretive clerical culture in which priests do not feel obliged to live by their vows of sexual discipline creates an environment in which the sexual assault of minors becomes more likely.

Now, you can regard that European man as a fool if you like, but the fact is that the Catholic faith, which has been faithfully handed down in his family from time immemorial, stops with his generation, and may never again be known among his line. You might, from atop the triumphalist arch, look down in scorn and pity on this young father, and fault him for a lack of faith, and for turning his back on the incomparable intellectual legacy of Roman Catholicism. But the plain fact is, when this Millennial husband and father from a cultured Catholic family looks at the Catholic Church, the main thing he sees is the priest who raped his fellow altar boy, and a clerical culture that seems more interested in facilitating homosexual culture than in pursuing holiness. He told me that he finds it impossible to take spiritual and moral advice from such men, and from celibates.

He and his family don’t attend another church. They don’t go to church at all. Rome’s loss is no one’s gain. It’s just loss all around.

Again, it’s easy to pick out the faults in his decision-making here, but my old friend shares with the reader  who wrote me this thing: the shattering experience of a Catholic Church that did not want to be the Catholic Church — indeed, one that sometimes seems to hate what the Catholic Church stands for.

What is one supposed to make of this? The US Catholic Church is, reeling from a deep and longstanding scandal in which thousands of children and minors — over 80 percent of them males — were sexually assaulted by priests. The slow uncovering of this scandal has also revealed that a significant number of Catholic priests are gay and unchaste. Even such a strongly liberal Catholic as the late Richard Sipe, who knew more about the sexual behavior of US Catholic priests than anybody else, warned that clandestine networks of gay priests within Catholic institutions, especially seminaries, were a significant factor in perpetuating abuse. I wrote this back in 2002 for National Review. [3] Excerpt:

The raw numbers are less important, though, if homosexual priests occupy positions of influence in the vast Catholic bureaucracy; and there seems little doubt that this is the case in the American Church. Lest this be dismissed as right-wing paranoia, it bears noting that psychotherapist Sipe is no conservative — indeed, he is disliked by many on the Catholic Right for his vigorous dissent from Church teaching on sexual morality — yet he is convinced that the sexual abuse of minors is facilitated by a secret, powerful network of gay priests. Sipe has a great deal of clinical and research experience in this field; he has reviewed thousands of case histories of sexually active priests and abuse victims. He is convinced of the existence of what the Rev. Andrew Greeley, the left-wing clerical gadfly, has called a “lavender Mafia.”

“This is a system. This is a whole community. You have many good people covering it up,” Sipe says. “There is a network of power. A lot of seminary rectors and teachers are part of it, and they move to chancery-office positions, and on to bishoprics. It’s part of the ladder of success. It breaks your heart to see the people who suffer because of this.”

In his new book, Goodbye! Good Men, Michael S. Rose documents in shocking detail how pervasive militant homosexuality is in many seminaries, how much gay sex is taking place among seminarians and priest-professors, and how gay power cliques exclude and punish heterosexuals who oppose them. “It’s not just a few guys in a few seminaries that have an ax to grind. It is a pattern,” says Rose. “The protective network [of homosexual priests] begins in the seminaries.”

The stories related in Rose’s book will strike many as incredible, but they track closely with the stories that priests have told me about open gay sex and gay politicking in seminaries. The current scandal is opening Catholic eyes: As one ex-seminarian says, “People thought I was crazy when I told them what it was like there, so I finally quit talking about it. They’re starting to see now that I wasn’t.”

I wrote that in 2002. Here we are 16 years later, and we know so much more know. We also know that a gay man, Theodore McCarrick, rose to the heights of power within the Catholic Church despite his sexual taste for seminarians being a more or less open secret within elite Catholic ranks. We have seen a high-ranking former Church diplomat, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, write openly about the McCarrick cover-up at the highest levels of the Church [4], and about homosexual corruption in the Curia — and name names. Pope Francis refuses to answer him. Perhaps Team Francis hopes it will all go away. Damon Linker, who just formally left the Catholic Church over all this, is right:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js [7]

To repeat the plaintive question from my reader: Why isn’t the Catholic Church satisfied with just being Catholic? To which we might add: Why is the Catholic hierarchy satisfied with such spiritual and moral mediocrity, and even corruption?

Given that effects of the abuse scandal is tearing the US Catholic Church apart, how does this kind of thing happen [8], in a major parish of the New York Archdiocese?:

At the Out at St. Paul Book Club [9], the topic of discussion will be Jamie O’Neill’s novel “At Swim, Two Boys.” O’Neill is a gay Irish author who was raised a Roman Catholic. Leaving home at age 17, according to O’Neill [10], he didn’t get along well with his father. As a young man, O’Neill began a relationship with British TV presenter Russell Harty [11] who was 27 years his senior. Published in 2001, “At Swim, Two Boys” is considered by some as a landmark book in LGBT literature and remains O’Neill’s most acclaimed work. Along with another famous novel about a boy’s so-called sexual awakening, André Aciman’s 2007 “Call Me By Your Name [12],” O’Neill’s book contains instances of homosexual grooming.

The book tells the story of two very different 16-year old boys, Jim and Doyler. With the backdrop of political and social upheaval in early 20th century Ireland, these two wayward and abused young men begin a friendship that eventually results in homosexual sex. While Jim is naive and shy, Doyler is more outgoing. Jim attends a Catholic school where one of his teachers is a religious named “Brother Polycarp.” According to one reviewer [13], “Jim is too innocent to realise how he is being groomed by Brother Polycarp.” In the meantime, the more streetwise Doyler meets an older gay man who pays the teenage boy for sex.

In the book, swimming is used as an allegory for the developing sexual relationship between the two main characters; but especially for Jim who doesn’t know how to swim. But in the book’s most disturbing storyline, the older man who earlier assaulted Doyler, becomes a sort of mentor and begins to teach Jim how to swim. While a reviewer at the New York Times [14] briefly mentioned “the ticklish business of celebrating under-age lovers and a grown man’s entanglement with them both,” the book is alarming for its rather benevolent view of sex between boys and men.

Celebrity pro-gay Jesuit Father James Martin, a favorite of Pope Francis’s, has praised the Out At St. Paul ministry as “one of the most dynamic Catholic LGBT ministries in the country, and probably the world.” The reader above writes of priests who “subvert the faith but defend the institution.” There you go.

To be sure, open communion is even more subversive of the Catholic faith than defying and denying its teachings on sexuality.  The Eucharist, as the convert above writes, “is the cornerstone.” But it’s all of a piece. Sympathetic outside observers of Catholicism, in whose number I count myself, can only look on with dismay, even horror, as the institutional church dismantles itself, in part by turning on the priests and lay people within it who actually want to follow their Lord as faithful Roman Catholics. Even Pope Francis would not give a clear defense of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist, [15] leaving the impression that Protestants should feel at liberty to receive communion in a Catholic Church, if their conscience permits them to.

I know more about the personal back story of the reader whose e-mail I quote above than I can share with you all. This reader’s story ought to be in a book somewhere, given where the reader has come from on the faith journey, and what this reader has suffered for the sake of following Jesus Christ as a Roman Catholic. It genuinely grieves me that the reader is suffering like this, at the hands of a Catholic priest who plainly does not want to be Catholic. I hope the reader leaves for a better parish. The reader told me in a follow-up e-mail that it has been a shock as a convert to get inside the Catholic Church, and to discover how many of those within — especially in the clerical leadership — are actively trying to tear down normative Catholicism.

Maybe sharing the reader’s story, and the story of my European Catholic friend who has fallen away, will strengthen those Catholics in positions of power and influence who are leading the resistance. There has to be a better answer to these people — those holding on despite everything, and those who have recently let go — than a triumphalist pep talk. In the midst of this crisis, triumphalism is a point of view that can only be sustained from a position atop the arch, high above the messy crowd, where ordinary people are having to live with priests betraying the Eucharist and their calling, and, in the case of parents, having to figure out how to raise faithful Catholic children within an institution whose leadership class cannot be trusted to uphold and proclaim the magisterial Catholic faith.

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125 Comments (Open | Close)

125 Comments To "The Treason Of The Clerics"

#1 Comment By Chris On November 27, 2018 @ 1:54 am

“My main point, though, is that confession of sin is important, and taken very seriously even by those who do not have an hierarchical priesthood, but believe in the universal priesthood of believers. Some appear not to know that.”

For ecclesial Christians it is not either/or but both/and.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Churc

1268 The baptized have become “living stones” to be “built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood.” By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.

#2 Comment By VikingLS On November 27, 2018 @ 4:58 am

“Yet confession of sins is necessary. I am such that I find it necessary to do so every day. It is done through the one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus, as stated in the New Testament – where there is no priesthood mentioned at all, or salvation through sacraments administered by priests.”

Fran you honestly sound a lot like one of the liberals here who seem SHOCKED that Rod, a conservative, espouses conservative view.

Rod is Orthodox. He does NOT need an ignorant Protestant like you telling him that he doesn’t understand his own faith. None of us do.

Orthodox and Catholics also confess directly to God. It’s NOT the same thing. We have something in that sacrament you don’t have, and it is you, not us, that suffers from that lack.

Now it’s impossible for you to understand this because you haven’t experienced it.

Don’t try to tu quo me on this, I was raised Southern Baptist. I do have something to compare to. If you compare protestantism at its best to Orthodoxy at its worst, yes protestantism comes out ahead, but that’s a rigged game.

#3 Comment By VikingLS On November 27, 2018 @ 5:12 am

“My main point, though, is that confession of sin is important, and taken very seriously even by those who do not have an hierarchical priesthood, but believe in the universal priesthood of believers. Some appear not to know that.”

Fran we know this belief of yours already.

You honestly sound like the kind of liberal who comes here and repeats the same tired liberal talking points as if the reason conservatives disagree with them is because they haven’t heard their ideas, or if they have, must have rejected them out of malice.

Every Catholic and Orthodox sooner or later has the experience of some evangelical telling them they don’t need to confess their sins to a priest. We’ve heard this argument before Fran.

#4 Comment By Rob G On November 27, 2018 @ 7:29 am

“It does, though, mean believing that people who reject those claims are deeply wrong and in terrible danger, and recognizing that you’ve been charged with helping save them from this. If you decline to do so, the message you’re sending the world is that you’re a Christian because it’s right for you, but there are many ways to God and no big reason to worry that others will (perhaps preventably) be denied salvation.”

Not so. Every Christian is called to be a witness, but not everyone is an evangelist. St. Peter says to always be prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you, in meekness and with respect.” Doesn’t sound particularly triumphalist to me.

~~~It looks indistinguishable, though. A liberal Christian relativist (who sees his faith as “right for me”) or a universalist (who thinks that everyone is saved, that there are many paths to God, etc.) would conduct himself exactly same way, and would also seem to be “wearing his faith lightly.”~~~

Says who? Why would a relativist or universalist feel any need to share his faith in the first place?

You seem to be working under evangelical/fundamentalist assumptions about what sharing the message entails. In the Catholic and Orthodox understandings not every non-Christian is on the fast track to perdition, so not every non-Christian is in need of “immediate” rescuing. Salvation is dynamic, not static.

#5 Comment By Rob G On November 27, 2018 @ 7:36 am

“the dilemma is that you can downplay or decline to advertise your belief in those triumphs, but to others that will look indistinguishable from holding the beliefs only weakly or relativistically.”

As said above, you can fully believe in and share your faith in those triumphs without doing it triumphalistically, at least according to the I Peter 3:15 quote I referred to.

#6 Comment By Ted On November 27, 2018 @ 8:36 am

TR: “No one here has a good thing to say about the vernacular Mass, but don’t you think the vast majority of Catholics in Church every Sunday are perfectly happy with it?”

Yes. That’s the whole problem. Or a big part of it.

#7 Comment By Ted On November 27, 2018 @ 8:42 am

Ben: “If however, your pastor is not all that close a friend, don’t waste your breath. He probably doesn’t give a rats ass what the laity think, anyway.”

Yup. The attitude of most U.S. priests, 99% of those who make it to Monsignor, as regards the laity is distaste. That half of them disdain us as breeders doesn’t make it any better.

#8 Comment By JonF On November 27, 2018 @ 9:33 am

For people advising that others ought seek a church in parts distant if the local church does not measure up: OK, maybe. But there’s a trade off and a non-trivial one. If your church is too far away you will be disconnected from the actual life of the parish, and church should not just be a Sunday only thing in your lives. At the extreme you may be tempted to blow off Sunday and sleep in. I learned this the hard way myself back in 2000-01. As a rule of the thumb now, I have made sure in subsequent moves that I always live within biking distance of an Orthodox church that is welcoming to new members. Not that I bike very often ; I generally drive. But at that distance I won’t be too far away.

#9 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On November 27, 2018 @ 11:54 am

Viking and Fran are certainly giving us an example of religious sectarianism at its worst.

Yes. That’s the whole problem. Or a big part of it.

Ted channeling Turmarion, only in reverse. ‘You say that like its a GOOD thing.’

That’s kind of like saying someone was never a saint, until those later on recognized it.

I’ve always thought it was dubious to canonize anyone until they had been dead at least a century. Its the enduring value of their life several generations later is what counts — at least for earthly judgments.

Churches that refer to each other as “the saints” is a different usage entirely.

#10 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 27, 2018 @ 12:38 pm

“He does NOT need an ignorant Protestant like you telling him that he doesn’t understand his own faith. None of us do.”

Wow. Just, wow.

#11 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 27, 2018 @ 12:51 pm

“Fran you honestly sound a lot like one of the liberals here who seem SHOCKED that Rod, a conservative, espouses conservative view.”

It boggles the mind when a person can’t wrap their head around the fact that there are conservative non-Catholics and protestants.

As for Rod, hasn’t he stated that he’s not much of a conservative when it comes to economics, rather than social issues?

I’m certainly a conservative of that sort.

I guess it’s kind of like calling someone a bigot or racist, a kind of trump card to discredit and dismiss, by using the dreaded epithet of “liberal” against them.

I mean, the reason I was doxxed by SJW radicals who have hijacked the now progressive Mennonite Church USA, was precisely because my theology is conservative. They too prefer to engage in reducing those they differ with to derogatory labels, even when untrue.

For the record, I don’t doubt Rod to be a Christian, or that the Orthodox church is a true church, or that people born Catholic can’t be Christians. It would be nice to be extended the same courtesy, since the gift of salvation has been conferred to me, too.

#12 Comment By John Spragge On November 27, 2018 @ 1:12 pm

What, or who, do I say the Eucharist is? It is the Real Presence of the Word through Whom all things were made, of the light that shines in a darkness that can never comprehend it. It is a small circle of bread able to hold a love greater than a billion galaxies. Every word I have spoken here is inadequate; I can no more fully describe the Love offered us in the Eucharist than I could fully and accurately describe even one of the billion billion stars fired by that Love. But if you ask me, what is the Eucharist, that is as close as I can come.

And because I say what I say about the Eucharist, I also, logically, have to say it cannot be some other things. It cannot be ours. It cannot be something we earn, merit, deserve or achieve. A church community can only be justified in denying the Eucharist to anyone at all because, to paraphrase Sarek of Vulcan, the Eucharist can be a terrible intimacy. A church wary of allowing persons to take communion without preparation may be exercising care of souls. But the pastor of my church, where we have a fully open table, is absolutely right when she say this of G-d’s table: it is not ours.

#13 Comment By Elijah On November 27, 2018 @ 1:13 pm

“Most Protestants simply ignore it in their blissful ignorance; I think most of the loudest Bible-thumpers, in particular, have not the faintest idea how the Bible was put together or who did this…”

Please do not equate Protestants with a tiny – but vocal – group of fundamentalists. I know many more Evangelicals who have read Josephus and church fathers as fit to your caricature. Certainly for my generation you’re much more likely to encounter Catholics who were discouraged from reading the Bible, let alone knowing its history (though I think that’s largely changed).

#14 Comment By Ted On November 27, 2018 @ 1:35 pm

Jenkins: I don’t attend a Roman church any more, but the last couple of times I did I looked around and it seemed to me there were two kinds of people there. The people who had been brutalized into tolerating that ghastly liturgy, and the people (like me) who couldn’t believe they’d put up with it all those years. I used to ignore the responsorial psalm by skipping ahead to read the Epistle or the Gospel, but the text was so ghastly (“How is it better if a person gains the whole world…”) it really wasn’t much of a help. And at no Christmas that I can foresee will I have to hear:

Born to raise us here on earth,
Born to give us second birth.

Born that we no more may die.

Or, “In a certain city there was a judge who didn’t respect God and held no respect for any human being.”

Pah!

#15 Comment By Joe M On November 27, 2018 @ 7:59 pm

The leaders don’t care about stories like these. They consider such preppie sincere but naive. “God is Love. He is beyond primitive human things like boundaries. The Eucharist is in everyone you meet.”

#16 Comment By Lucy On November 27, 2018 @ 8:19 pm

Coming back late here …

Carlo wrote: “Lucy: non sequitur. BOTH rot and goodness are everywhere.”

Then things like clerical sex abuse shouldn’t matter, as long as there’s goodness to balance it. I’m sure the victims will be comforted by that.

There is rot. There is goodness. How much of each exists in any given place, where to find them, how much each is growing or dying — those are questions your glib worldview doesn’t address.

#17 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 27, 2018 @ 9:53 pm

@Elijah:

Please do not equate Protestants with a tiny – but vocal – group of fundamentalists.

I didn’t. That’s why I specified “the loudest Bible-thumpers” — not Protestants in general, and not even evangelicals in general, although I do think that ordinary Protestant believers by and large have not really grappled with the fact that the Bible was the handiwork of Catholics.

@Rob G:

I’m talking about what shapes perceptions among the larger public. The Catholic Church has decided (in relatively recent times) that it’s fine to be Jewish, that in doing so you still “participate in salvation” in some mysterious way. But being Jewish means actively denying nearly every article of the Nicene Creed. So if that’s OK, then why would anyone need to be Christian, let alone a member of the alleged One True Church?

This whole problem would still be there even if Protestantism didn’t exist; it’s a question of whether Christians, however narrowly defined, really believe their own claims or not. They do not visibly act as if they do.

#18 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 28, 2018 @ 3:22 am

” … although I do think that ordinary Protestant believers by and large have not really grappled with the fact that the Bible was the handiwork of Catholics.”

It could well be argued that by the time of the organization of the Borgias, that they had little in common with an earlier faith in Christ inspired and sustained by the Holy Spirit.

It’s the divinely inspired Word of God, not the human handiwork of “Roman Catholics.”

No matter what the Imprimatur.

#19 Comment By Rob Grano On November 28, 2018 @ 8:06 am

“This whole problem would still be there even if Protestantism didn’t exist; it’s a question of whether Christians, however narrowly defined, really believe their own claims or not. They do not visibly act as if they do.”

Why is it up to outsiders to decide if Christians are acting correctly in this regard? Who are they to say, “If you really believed this, you’d act this way”?

“A church wary of allowing persons to take communion without preparation may be exercising care of souls. But the pastor of my church, where we have a fully open table, is absolutely right when she say this of G-d’s table: it is not ours.”

You realize that open communion is a Protestant invention with no early church foundation, right? It’s a manifestation of privileging theory over tradition.

#20 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 28, 2018 @ 10:42 am

Rob Grano:

Why is it up to outsiders to decide if Christians are acting correctly in this regard? Who are they to say, “If you really believed this, you’d act this way”?

It’s up to them to decide how seriously to take your claims, and whether to view not acting in a way consistent with them as a reason to think you may not fully believe the claims yourselves. It’s then up to you to decide whether you care about those opinions or not. If you prefer a world in which more rather than fewer people doubt you and consider you unserious, then great, you’re acting entirely correctly. Carry on.

#21 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 28, 2018 @ 10:56 am

@Fran:

It’s the divinely inspired Word of God, not the human handiwork of “Roman Catholics.”

Yes, Protestants choose to believe that, notwithstanding the undeniable fact that it was human beings who actually put pen to papyrus, who first made the lists and collections that became the canon, and who attended the councils that debated and ratified it. Most of that activity happened under the umbrella of the Catholic Church. Nothing would have stopped the founders of Protestantism from redoing the whole enterprise, perhaps reviewing the whole canon book-by-book as they did in a few cases (rejecting the Apocrypha and bringing sharp criticisms against other parts, like Luther’s against the book of James).

What I’m pointing out is that they decided instead to assert what you’re saying here, that somehow God was (with those exceptions) acting through or inspiring the Church in its earlier years but then stopped doing so later, leaving the Bible as not only a reliable text but one that then acquired supreme importance, effectively replacing the Magisterium and most of Church tradition. Catholicism and Orthodoxy, though, which continued to exist, taught that this was wrong, and Protestants themselves fell out and started accusing each other of being wrong too. So who in all this is right? God knows; the rest of us just have our competing claims.

#22 Comment By Rob G On November 29, 2018 @ 6:35 am

“If you prefer a world in which more rather than fewer people doubt you and consider you unserious, then great, you’re acting entirely correctly. Carry on.”

It’s not as if we’ve not been given some internal guidelines as to how conduct ourselves in our communications. Zeal, yes, but also meekness and respect. We’re not selling replacement windows here.

Ultimately it’s up to God to sort out how and where the chips fall after the message is presented. Some sow, some water, but it’s He who gives the increase. If some people see Christians as “unserious” because we’re not forceful or condescending enough (both of which seem to be traits of any triumphalism I’ve encountered), that’s really not our problem.

In fact, I strongly suspect that if we were more zealous and forceful numerous critics would be complaining about that. Recent Christian history is awash with harebrained schemes to get more “bums in pews,” yet secularists never seem to be happy no matter what we do. Imagine that.

#23 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 29, 2018 @ 8:31 am

Ultimately it’s up to God to sort out how and where the chips fall after the message is presented. Some sow, some water, but it’s He who gives the increase.

It’s also He who said, “Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Teach all nations! Why do they need our teaching? Do we know more than they do? Are we supposed to make them our students? Are they less spiritually advanced than we are?

See, this is what I mean: the Christian claims are inherently condescending, whether you present them in an overtly condescending manner or not. Unless, of course, you just do what most non-evangelicals and even many evangelicals nowadays do, and just opt out of presenting them at all. Avoids the whole problem, right?

#24 Comment By Rob G On November 29, 2018 @ 10:15 am

“See, this is what I mean: the Christian claims are inherently condescending, whether you present them in an overtly condescending manner or not.”

This is only a problem under the diversity/tolerance/non-judgmentalist regime. Believe it or not, at one time not all that long ago people understood that holding to a belief system generally required the understanding was that it was, you know, true. And that if it were true, then opposing viewpoints were to one degree or another false. No wonder Frost defined a liberal as “a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.”

Point being, there are ways of saying “I’m right and you’re not” without coming across as a jerk.

#25 Comment By Jefferson Smith On November 29, 2018 @ 11:17 am

Point being, there are ways of saying “I’m right and you’re not” without coming across as a jerk.

Agreed. But Christians have by and large stopped saying it at all, jerkishly or otherwise. That’s the point I’ve been making here. Oh, they still say people are wrong on particular social and political questions like abortion or gay marriage, but they’ve abandoned the claim that other groups are wrong about, you know, what makes Christianity Christian: certain specific and erstwhile overwhelmingly important claims about Christ, atonement, salvation, the nature of God and God’s operations in history, and the demands that all this presents to humankind.

The Catholic reversal on Judaism is perhaps the most striking but not the only evidence of this. The official position of the Catholic Church may or may not still be, at some level, “We’re right and they’re wrong,” it’s also: “but this doesn’t matter. Their way is fine too. Different strokes for different folks.” When you go relativistic like that on your (supposed) core beliefs, then anyone who looks to your example is entitled to presume that they’re imitating it, not failing to, by indulging in relativism themselves. Thus you have largely lost the ability to witness. And as is so often pointed out around here, once we’re into relativism, anything goes — the only real measure of truth we’ve got left is what “feels” right. Conservative Christians complain about this but are not standing against it, as a body; most of them have taken a posture that validates and encourages it.