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Pope Francis: A Catholic Luther?

Arrivederci? (neneo/Shutterstock [1])

Here’s a sobering essay [2] from the Italian Catholic journalist Sandro Magister’s blog, though it is written by an Italian academic historian named Roberto Pertici. It begins like this:

At this point in the pontificate of Francis, I believe it can be reasonably maintained that this marks the twilight of that imposing historical reality which can be defined as “Roman Catholicism.”

This does not mean, properly understood, that the Catholic Church is coming to an end, but that what is fading is the way in which it has historically structured and represented itself in recent centuries.

It seems evident to me, in fact, that this is the plan being deliberately pursued by the “brain trust” that has clustered around Francis: a plan understood both as an extreme response to the crisis in relations between the Church and the modern world, and as a precondition for a renewed ecumenical course together with the other Christian confessions, especially the Protestant.

Read the whole thing. [2] Pertici says that Catholicism is being reformed by Pope Francis and many others within the institution along essentially Lutheran lines. Owing to its brevity, the essay leaves a lot unexplored. Reading it as a non-expert, I wonder to what extent the “Lutheran” revisions described by Prof. Pertici are not better understood as the ultimate victory of Protestantism over Catholicism, in the specific sense that Protestantism ushered in modernity.


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87 Comments To "Pope Francis: A Catholic Luther?"

#1 Comment By Joyful Housewife On April 16, 2018 @ 4:21 pm


I’ll take a crack, and then let the other Lutherans here have their say as well.

As for the “sin boldly” quote – it isn’t meant as a license to run out and do whatever you want with no concern for the sinfulness of it. Certainly not. If anyone knew about trying hard not to sin, it was Luther. This quote is really more an acknowledgment of the fact that there are many, many circumstances where, when we must decide what to do, there are no sin-free options. (Modern-day example: Bonhoeffer’s participation in the Hitler assassination plot, I’m sure you can think of plenty more mundane ones in your own life – I know I can in mine.) In those situations then, what do we do? Fret endlessly, and be terrified of the Lord’s judgment? No. “Sin boldly, but trust Christ all the more boldly!!” Trust Him, as the Lamb of God, to take away the sin of world – and of yourself.

Further, good works are necessary because Our Lord commands them as the right and proper work of believers in serving our neighbors as we are called to do. A healthy tree (or vine connected to the branch) bears good fruit, yes? But “doing good works” does not earn us “salvation points”, for if we want our good works to count towards us, then our “bad works”, which are immeasurably more, must also be counted against us. And if that were the case, then who could stand? No, ‘it’s better to trust that Christ’s work on the cross is sufficient merit for my sins, to trust that with all my heart, and to allow the Holy Spirit bear the fruit of good works in me as an outgrowth of my baptismal union with Christ.

Finally, as for the bread and wine being fully the Body and Blood of Our Lord – yes, this is a key piece of Lutheran sacramental theology, and cannot be dismissed. Is means is. This IS my body. For more information on this, you can read about the Marburg Colloquy, where Luther is reported to have said, “I would rather drink blood with the pope than wine with Ulrich Zwingli.”

#2 Comment By David Palmer On April 16, 2018 @ 4:30 pm

If Pope Francis comes out with something like “by faith alone in Christ alone” he may well be on the way to being a second Luther.

Also would like him to find his Katerina.

#3 Comment By Matt in AK On April 16, 2018 @ 4:43 pm

Robert Bruce Lewis,
First off, even the most confessional of Lutherans don’t sign off on everything Luther ever wrote. As we can see with “That Jesus Christ was born a Jew” and “Against the Jews” Luther himself is often inconsistent (as are Augustine, Aquinas, Matt in AK etc.). Cherry picking (especially from Table Talk) is neither fair nor helpful.

Next, we need to be careful with terminology, “anti-Semitism” is racial, and Luther was not a racial anti-Semite. Luther became increasingly, theologically, “anti-Jewish,” intolerant and frankly mean, but he’s clearly writing against a religion and not a race, and the Jews were not his only, or even main target. Luther was equally anti-Protestant (Against the heavenly prophets in the matter of images and sacraments) Anti-Papist (Against the Roman Papacy an institution of the Devil [in which btw he calls Paul III “the fart-assed pope”]) Anti-liberation theology (Against the robbing and murdering hordes of peasants) Anti-Antinominian (Against the Antinomians) etc. . He clearly saw the State as having the responsibility to enforce orthodoxy, but unlike the RC countries, there were no Lutheran countries that killed anyone for their theology.

Honestly, his stuff is out there, and you’ll sound less ignorant if you read some of it before you spout.

Easter Blessings+,
-Matt in AK

#4 Comment By Matt in AK On April 16, 2018 @ 4:49 pm

Chantilly Lace,
In 1415 at the Council of Constance, Jan Huss was burned at the stake for using the vernacular in the mass, and communing the laity under both kinds.
Easter Blessings+,
-Matt in AK

#5 Comment By Robert Bruce Lewis On April 16, 2018 @ 4:50 pm

“…Whatever view one takes of Luther’s anti-Semitism, it is worth point out that it was a minor aspect of his thought overall…”

Read in context, I don’t think it was “minor” at all. Luther thought that he had “purified” Christian doctrine with his heresies, and believed that, as a sign of his “purification” of them, the Jews would massively convert to Christianity. His vast ego (Erasmus called him a “pope”) caused him to become infuriated by their “obstinacy.”

On another subject, related to matters discussed on this thread, I’m surprised that Rod and other doctrinaire Christians do not call attention to something they must in all logic, no doubt, deem a much more serious “innovation” against tradition (aka “binding” and “loosing”) than these issues of marriage and divorce: I refer to the Second Vatican Council’s proclamation of the doctrine of “implied faith,” which, to my mind, finally redeemed Christianity as a “good citizen of the world,” and not the sole owner of the afterlife. It made orthodox–that is, Catholic–soteriology much more sublime and intellectually respectable. The doctrine of “implied faith” represents the ultimate rejection of “salvation by faith alone,” and its fullest implication is that non-believers such as Gandhi are redeemed by the “blood of Christ” because of their “virtuous lives,” whether or not they “confessed” it. I think it is that doctrine, more than anything else, that makes the project of Catholic-Protestant ecumenism theoretically impossible. I remember that when I lived in India the Protestant fundamentalists amongst whom I worked in an international school were enraged by Mother Teresa’s rebuttal of Christopher Hitchens’ allegation that she coerced conversions of the dying. She replied that she was convinced that, if a dying person drew closer to “Allah,” or closer to “Krishna” as he or she drew his or her last breaths, they were, indeed, drawing closer to God. Mother Teresa probably would not have been given a state funeral in Kolkota by the government of India, if she had not said that. And John Paul II and Benedict XVI apparently had no problem with it. You see, Rod, the Catholic Church DOES make use of its prerogative to change doctrine–to “bind and loose.”

#6 Comment By Randolph On April 16, 2018 @ 4:53 pm

Bernie. Here is a quick answer. I’m a Lutheran Pastor in the confessional church body the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. (LCMS).

“First, concerning justification or “saved by faith alone”, am I correct in understanding that while “good works” (I prefer to call them obedience to the Commandments and other New Testament moral teachings, such as the beatitudes) are commended and encouraged in the Augsburg Confession, they have nothing to do with whether or not one goes to heaven?”

Good works earn heaven, just not your good works. It is Christ’s perfect sinless works, culminating in the cross, that earns us heaven. Substitutionary atonement. We trade works, our bad incomplete for his perfect. Whence good works in the life of faith? They are a fruit of faith like a branch that produces good fruit. So a living faith will produce good works but they are not the foundation of salvation, that’s Christ.

“I’ve always been somewhat shocked by Luther’s letter of August 1, 1521 to Phillip Melanchthon. The entire quote can be found on the Internet, and I quote only part of it here: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world. As long as we are here we have to sin…. No sin will separate us from the Lamb, even though we commit fornication and murder a thousand times a day.””

Luther is famous for overstatement to make a point. It’s a letter not a doctrinal tract. What Lutherans believe is found in the Book of Concord (which contains the Augsburg Confession, and few things by Luther). Luther’s Writings as a corpus are instructive but never considered authoritative. In this letter he is basically instructing M. on preaching real Gospel, a Christ that really died for real sins, and that no sin of man, no amount of sins of a man, can outdo the forgiveness earned on the cross. Moving toward repentance is not the focus here but the assumption, M was struggling with his own feelings of unforgiviness, he was plenty repentant. But are you really forgiven…even for that one sin? I’m repentant, now what? Gospel. Don’t forget the last words of the letter. “Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins? Pray hard for you are quite a sinner.”

“Did Luther teach that repentance for sin was necessary? Did it have anything to do with going to heaven?”

Yes. Yes. But Lutherans are monergistic (God acting first) So you cannot repent until faith is awakened in you by the Word of God. So repentance as your work does not earn heaven, but it is a result of faith. Repentance is always paired with Absolution. Namely sorrow over sin and trust in the gospel for salvation. These both require faith. Faith is what is necessary and that a gift of God. Here is the first Thesis of Luther’s 95 Thesis that sparked the Reformation: 1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” ( Matthew 4:17 ), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

“Secondly, concerning Communion or the Lord’s Supper, the Augsburg Confession says it is the body and blood of Christ. Do all Lutherans believe this, or do some believe it is symbolic and/or a memorial meal only. Is Communion celebrated by all Lutherans every Sunday…or by some but not all?”

In this, liberal or conservative or confessional… all Lutherans believe it’s the body and blood of Christ received in the supper. It’s a core tenant and makes us not quite Protestant in the eyes of the, well, Protestants. Lutherans reintroduced the early church practice of every Sunday communion for the whole congregation and encouraged it vs Rome’s few times a year for the whole congregation (this is not speaking to multiple daily masses) in Luther’s day. This practice was common and was lost for a time due to rationalism and pietism in Germany that downplayed Sacraments in view of personal faith. Dark times. You will find it’s made a sweeping recovery to every Sunday here in the US. That early Lutheran practiced encouraged Rome in the counter-Reformation toward encouraging weekly plus reception.

#7 Comment By Matt in AK On April 16, 2018 @ 5:05 pm

I’ve got 5 minutes. Here’s the link: [3]

First, concerning justification or “saved by faith alone”, am I correct in understanding that while “good works” are commended and encouraged in the Augsburg Confession, they have nothing to do with whether or not one goes to heaven?
-Articles 4, 5, and 20 (ultra quick read) (N.b., we’re more likely to say “By grace alone THROUGH faith alone.”)

I’ve always been somewhat shocked by Luther’s letter of August 1, 1521 to Phillip Melanchthon.
-What would a monergist tell a repentant sinner frightened that he hasn’t done enough to be forgiven?

Did Luther teach that repentence for sin was necessary? Did it have anything to do with going to heaven?
-Article 12, also a very short section (but in general we repent because we are Christian, not the other way around.)

Secondly, concerning Communion or the Lord’s Supper, the Augsburg Confession says it is the body and blood of Christ. Do all Lutherans believe this?
-Yes by definition, if they don’t they aren’t Lutherans. Art 10 (1 sentence)
btw, do all Catholics? (because my mother-in-law’s priest doesn’t.)

Is Communion celebrated by all Lutherans every Sunday…or by some but not all?
-Some, but not all unfortunately. I think we’re making progress.

Easter Blessings+,
-Matt in AK

#8 Comment By David Allen On April 16, 2018 @ 5:14 pm

I am certainly no expert on Martin Luther but it seems to me that his anti-Semitism is not an insignificant part of his theological work. For one thing the depth of his hatred for the Jews led him to advocate violence against their property, restrictions upon their freedom, and exile. Moreover, his advocacy of justification by faith alone caused him to accuse Catholics of being Jewish, clearly an important aspect of
his theological thought. There were and have been plenty of Catholic anti-Semites. That does not make Catholicism fundamentally anti-Jewish, anymore than Luther’s anti-Semitism makes Lutheranism fundamentally anti-Semitic. But ii is not possible to minimize Luther’s view of the Jews.

#9 Comment By Brendan On April 16, 2018 @ 5:20 pm

it seems to me that the deemphasizing of the papacy, of the canon law structure, the emphasis on local jurisdictions and the orpning of a way to allow remairried people some sort of legitimacy without the sacrament are all things that bridge the gap with Orthodoxy as much as if not more than with Protestantism.

It can seem that way to a non-Orthodox, probably, but the reality in Orthodoxy is that the requirement of common belief is rather strict. Yes, we have no Pope (although some Orthodox Churches do have strong Patriarchs), but we have a very strict requirement of at least *openly* sharing common faith and praxis. The degree of difference that Francis appears to be courting in local churches in Catholicism is more wide-ranging than it is in Orthodoxy, and wouldn’t work in Orthodoxy. Probably the reason for that is that, unlike Orthodoxy, if the Catholics go that way, they retain a universal structure which can create structural unity despite local differences — in Orthodoxy we do not have that, so what holds us together is a rather more strict bond of common openly stated belief and praxis. Yes, there are some variances here and there, but if one local Orthodox Church decided to bless same sex couples, the rest of the Orthodox Churches would simply break communion with it (it has happened in the past over lesser issues), and that would be that.

#10 Comment By Jefferson Smith On April 16, 2018 @ 5:22 pm


Did Luther teach that repentence for sin was necessary? Did it have anything to do with going to heaven?

I had a Lutheran primary and liberal-arts education, but I’m not a theologian and can’t answer this in full. (I hope someone who knows the theology better will try to.) Luther’s insight, as I understand it, was that repentance can never get us there. Sin is not an enumerable list of wrong thoughts or acts, it’s a pervasive feature of the human condition, and we could spend our entire lives doing nothing but repenting and still not make up for it. But God absolves us of all our sin through the free gift of his grace. Our job is to accept this gift, not to try to earn or deserve it, which we can’t.

Of course, those who accept the gift of God’s grace will also want to, and generally will, conduct themselves in godlier ways. At least that’s what I took from reading Luther’s treatise “On Christian Liberty,” although I also remember feeling like I was not understanding all the nuances.

#11 Comment By Marie On April 16, 2018 @ 5:40 pm


“Did Luther teach that repentence for sin was necessary? Did it have anything to do with going to heaven?”

Yes, he taught the whole life is one of repentance, of daily contrition and “putting on” your baptism; we like to say we *are* baptized, not *were* baptized. Our baptism, hearing the Word of God and the Sacrament of the Altar is how we are in Christ.

The Augsburg Confession is excellent for the theological polemics and a summary of issues at stake and which side the Lutherans fell on; The Small Catechism (and then the Large Catechism, which is one of the most beautiful meditations on the creed, Ten Commandments and Lord’s Prayer I’ve ever read) is better to understand Lutheran piety and daily living (in repentance)


“Secondly, concerning Communion or the Lord’s Supper, the Augsburg Confession says it is the body and blood of Christ. Do all Lutherans believe this, or do some believe it is symbolic and/or a memorial meal only. Is Communion celebrated by all Lutherans every Sunday…or by some but not all?”

I converted to Lutheranism 10 years ago and at the time most churches had Divine Service (communion) every other week, with Matins or other “Service of the Word” between weeks. There is a larger number who offer communion now every week. Lutherans believe the Body and Blood of our Lord is physically present for the forgiveness of sin. It is not a memorial meal and is not simply spiritually present; partakers are not spiritually ascended into heaven. Christ comes to us

How this looks from parish to parish, congregation to congregation depends on how well the pastors and church members have been taught The Book of Concord, just like doctrine in any church and denomination


RE: Lutheranism vs Luther the Man, this is a constant frustration for Lutherans.

For those Lutherans in these comments, just yesterday listened to a Curtis lecture on “What Luther Got Wrong” (see the Redeemer Ft Wayne youtube channel), and I thought it was very fair and honest and made some hard arguments that Lutherans would do well to consider and address (without weakening at all the truth of justification).


The deemphasis or abandonment of doctrines we share will further isolate Christians and not lead to any sort of unity. The anathemas of Trent, and Vatican I (many Lutherans very much despaired after this council, holding out hope for reconciliation, with the door being now decisively closed) are the biggest blocks.

#12 Comment By James C. On April 16, 2018 @ 5:55 pm

You know, Geoffrey, if you think your rather smug and complacent comment is a way to attract Catholics to Eastern Orthodoxy, you’re mistaken.

You know, you folks have also been through terrible existential crises before. Remember Iconoclasm? So a bit of humility may be in order here.

Proselytising Catholics by telling us how bad we have it is not the way. We already know we do. Thanks for the reminder.


I’m with the Lutherans here, and I don’t like or respect Luther. Francis is not following in Luther’s footsteps. His is an idiosyncratic brand of Modernism, a heresy that has afflicted the Catholic Church for a century and has also decimated mainline Protestantism (including Lutheran churches).

For that I am in sympathy with the orthodox Lutherans here.

#13 Comment By Anne On April 16, 2018 @ 6:03 pm

Pertici is just part of the current wave of rightwing reaction — which Sandro Magister was instrumental in initiating — that once almost deluded itself into believing Pope Benedict XVI had erased the Second Vatican Council from ecclesial history and is now panicking to realize there are more powerful forces in the Church than the ones they favor. Ironically, Francis himself is a doctrinal conservative, but as a Latin American prelate whose personal history under rightwing political tyranny left him both more pastorally empathetic and open to the reforms begun inside the Church a half century ago, he manages to strike terror in the shocked hearts of these folks simply by following some of the pastoral ideals advocated at Vatican II, including giving his opposition at the family synod and elsewhere the opportunity to have their voices heard, even as they were required to listen to the thinking of churchmen who disagreed with them. Calling it “Lutheran” is nothing new. Cardinal Ottavianni and his little cadre of reactionaries at Vatican II always called the reformers — including the two men who became Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI — “Protestants.” Even Benedict XVI’s speculations about a smaller, purer church in the future could be labeled in that way. For Catholics, it’s the perennial cheap shot. Magister and company really need to get a grip.

#14 Comment By Major Wootton On April 16, 2018 @ 6:06 pm

Bernie, here is a response to your message of 2:18 pm.
1.The Lutheran Confessions teach that good works are necessary, but they are the fruit of the Spirit-wrought gift of faith that justifies. Good works are for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. Looking to one’s works for their spiritual benefit to oneself takes one’s focus away from the Savior and His finished work for us.
When we are in union with Christ, we participate in His righteousness. We are indeed saved by works. But the works that save us are entirely those of Christ. “Faith does not justify or save because it is a good work in itself, but only because it accepts the promised mercy” (Tappert ed. of the Book of Concord, p. 114).
The Lutheran Confessions absolutely mandate repentance of sins. “Those who walk according to the flesh can retain neither faith nor righteousness” (Tappert edition of the Book of Concord, p. 160).
Rejected is the idea “that faith is such a kind of trust in the obedience of Christ that it can be and remain in a person who has no true repentance … but against his conscience remains in sin” (Tappert, p. 550). Repentance is necessary.
2.The Lutheran Confessions (gathered in The Book of Concord) teach that Christ gives His true body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. “The Lord’s bread in the Supper is His true, natural body, which the godless or Judas receive orally as well as St. Peter and all the saints.” … “For as in Christ two distinct and untransformed natures [the divine nature and the human nature] are indivisibly united, so in the Holy Supper the two essences, the natural bread and the true, natural body of Christ, are present together here on earth in the ordered action of the sacrament, though the union of the body and blood of Christ with the bread and wine is not a personal union, like that of the two natures in Christ, but a sacramental union” (Tappert, pp. 575-576).
Any Lutheran who believes that this sacrament is symbolic or a mere memorial is at odds with the Lutheran Confessions.
When we kneel to receive the Sacrament, the pastor tells us, “This is the body of Christ….This is the blood of Christ.”
The Lutheran Confessions assume that the Sacrament is offered every Sunday and on festival days (Tappert, p. 249). Where a Lutheran church fails to do so, it has fallen from right practice (See Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Article XXIV The Mass).

#15 Comment By Major Wootton On April 16, 2018 @ 6:08 pm

Uwe Siemon-Netto’s book The Fabricated Luther: Refuting Nazi Connections and Other Modern Myths, second edition, is the go-to book for anyone who is seriously interested in the topic of Luther and anti-semitism.

#16 Comment By Anne On April 16, 2018 @ 6:39 pm

PS: Francis allowing both sides to defend their positions on issues at the extraordinary synod on the family was the first time Vatican II’s concept of church synods had been fully enacted. John Paul II, for example, called such synods, but kept their deliberations both tightly controlled and secret from the Church at large. Not at all what the consensus of bishops at Vatican II signed off on. Although open give-and-take may seem “Protestant” to certain Catholics, it had been part of Church tradition since the council of Jerusalem until various historical forces in the Church began limiting decision-making to the few (if not the one). Modern communication technologies mean more laymen will hear what’s being said inside councils and synods, and that clearly worries conservatives who value doctrinal authority above all else. But the fact is there’s nothing particularly “Catholic” about pretending all aspects of doctrine, liturgy and pastoral practice are set in stone.

#17 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On April 16, 2018 @ 7:05 pm

Since Rod mentions “Unam Sanctam” (here’s a [4] to an English transaction), it might be interesing to delve a little bit into it.
The papal bull has to be interpreted in the light of the previous Magisterium such as the doctrine of the “logos spermatikos” of St. Justin Martyr, that taught that in the Pagan religion there were many seeds of the full Truth, and in the doctrine of St. Augustine about the “invisible Church”: “Multi intra qui extra videntur” (there are many inside [the Church] who appear to be outside).
I also recommend the reading of [5].
It is still the firm belief of the Catholic Church that there’s only one Church whose only head is Christ and whose only vicar in this world is Peter.
The name “Catholic” itself means “Universal”. That is, the Catholic Church claim of authority extends to all the baptized. In this, the claims of pope Boniface VIII are to be considered neither extraordinary nor invalidated by the current Magisterium.
This position has actually been confirmed by the Second Vatican Council in the Apostolic Constitution “Lumen Gentium”:

This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd, and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority, which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”. This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him, although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.


#18 Comment By Bernie On April 16, 2018 @ 7:07 pm

Thanks to all the Lutheran commenters who addressed my questions concerning Lutheran teaching. I really appreciate it.

#19 Comment By John Gruskos On April 16, 2018 @ 7:11 pm

Protestantism is sola scriptura Christianity. Nothing more, nothing less.

Of all the popes who have ever lived, Francis, the only Jesuit pope, is the furthest from being a good Protestant.

Innocent XI, the only Jansenist pope, was the closest any pope has ever been to being a good Protestant (admittedly not very close, but definitely closer than Francis is).

#20 Comment By Marie On April 16, 2018 @ 7:19 pm

James C.,

Thanks. I’m sympathetic to the Roman Catholic laity commenting whose priests, bishops, cardinals, etc., undermine the RC orthodox they are teaching their children. Lutherans (even confessional synods) have myriads of lazy or outright-trying-to-be-subversive pastors who constantly neglect their vows. But we must remember the gates of hell will not prevail against his Church, and the Word of the Lord remains forever. His good gifts are still found in the local church, no matter how discouraged we get by the clergy and teachers


Disregard my comment, Bernie, since others more qualified have answered your questions much better.

#21 Comment By Chantilly Lace On April 16, 2018 @ 7:20 pm

Matt in AK says:
April 16, 2018 at 4:49 pm
Chantilly Lace,
In 1415 at the Council of Constance, Jan Huss was burned at the stake for using the vernacular in the mass, and communing the laity under both kinds.
Easter Blessings+,
-Matt in AK

Matt, if you are looking for bad decisions the Church has made, there is an abundance of them no doubt.

#22 Comment By Anne On April 16, 2018 @ 7:25 pm

Clarification: Setting the Luther charge aside (and all the give-and-take about Luther and Lutheranism, not to mention Orthodox claims to having known all that needs knowing since, when?, 120 AD? before??), what is essentially “Catholic” has never been to claim that all doctrine is set in stone , but rather that “what the Church teaches” — in the persons of bishops, councils of bishops AND yes, popes — can be relied on. Ironically, this Pope’s critics have done every bit as much, if not more, to undermine that basic concept as all the church progressives who disagreed with previous popes on specific doctrines.

#23 Comment By Rombald On April 16, 2018 @ 8:15 pm


As well as being supported by various Roman emperors, for quite a while Arianism was the official religion of the post-Roman kingdoms in Iberia and North Africa. There were parallel churches, with the Germanic elites being Arian, and the Roman or quasi-Roman populace being Catholic. It is possible that Arianism did produce art, architecture, etc., in that context, although I have no idea.

I too thought grumpy realist’s comment about the Inquisition bizarre, but I suppose it is possible that some of the mediaeval heresies were theologically Arian. Such modern groups as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Iglesia ni Kristo are neo-Arian, and I suspect that non-credal Protestants like Baptists tend to drift in that direction.

#24 Comment By Jonathan Davis On April 16, 2018 @ 8:40 pm

It can seem that way to a non-Orthodox, probably, but the reality in Orthodoxy is that the requirement of common belief is rather strict.]

Yes, I understand that, but Protestants have their own, generally more compelling reasons not to want reunion with Francis’s Catholicism. My point is that any argument that Franics is trying to sweeten the pot for Protestants can be used IMHO just as effectivly to argue in the Orthodox direction. And any counter that the Orthodox aren’t interested is just as easily or more applied against the original Protestant argument.

Aside, I think you have a misunderstanding of how strict real Catholic orthodoxy is in belief. Orthodoxy is less not more so. Heck don’t you guys reject the legalistic perspective of canon law. And similarly I think you have a Rosy view of how homogeneous Orthodox belief is. It is my understanding that there are many modern theological issues that are quite unsettled across orthodoxy such as genetic engineering, birth control, divorce, Marian beliefs, etc. Correct me if I am wrong, I may well be.

#25 Comment By RR On April 16, 2018 @ 9:21 pm

quote: “Read in context, I don’t think it was “minor” at all. Luther thought that he had “purified” Christian doctrine with his heresies, and believed that, as a sign of his “purification” of them, the Jews would massively convert to Christianity. His vast ego (Erasmus called him a “pope”) caused him to become infuriated by their “obstinacy.”

Robert Bruce Lewis, I think it is obvious by now that you really don’t know much about Martin Luther. Luther was far from perfect. He was a sinner with a sharp tongue. But the center of his theology was the Gospel, that salvation is by faith alone in Jesus, through God’s grace alone, not by good works. His criticisms of various groups all flow from this. As Matt in AK has noted, the Jews were neither Luther’s only, nor the main target of his criticisms. To suggest that the Jews were an important part of Luther’s thought is to fundamentally misrepresent him.

With all this said, you seem to embrace a form of universalism with your talk about “implied faith.” Frankly, what you have described sounds grossly unbiblical and heretical, something akin to Plagiarism. If Mother Teresa adhered to the “implied faith” as you described it, then she was badly, badly wrong. The same is true of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. If what you say is true, then the Catholic Church is on the path to rejecting basic Christian orthodoxy about salvation. It’s the same path that liberal Protestants have taken. If that is case, this Protestant for one doesn’t find Catholic-Protestant ecumenicalism remotely desirable in the first place.

Oh, and the irony of your views is that if universalism is true, then a “heretic” such as Martin Luther will end up in heaven as well.

#26 Comment By Turmarion On April 16, 2018 @ 9:33 pm

Siarlys: Turmarion, my universalist quasi-Marcionite Roman Catholic friend, you have made it abundantly clear that you consider syncretism with Greek and Roman culture a feature, not a bug. I’m not sure its either, but since you reject the Old Testament you are logically consistent and sincere.

Note the “quasi-” in “quasi-Marcionite”. I do not reject the Old Testament–I didn’t tear it out of the Bibles I own! Rather, I reject it as being normative or controlling for understanding the Christian faith, except insofar as Christian Tradition has taught. E.g., the Ten Commandments remain binding, the prophecies of the coming of Christ are still relevant, and parts (not all!) of the Old Testament may be edifying; but aside from that, in accordance with the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15), the letters of Paul, and the teachings of Councils, Fathers, Popes, and, believe it or not, many Protestants, most of the rest of the Old Testament is not relevant for Christians. As I’ve said before, any meaningful form of Christianity that doesn’t understand the Old Testament exclusively through the lens of the New either reduces to some kind of Unitarianism, Ebionism, or, as in your case, a church-of-one. Which is fine; but none of those are Christianity as they’ve been typically understood.

I do not appear in the role of someone having power to offer anyone the opportunity to venerate the Virgin Mary, or Satan, or anyone or anything else. I merely make note of a fact. You have a problem with that?

Well, of course on the Internet, one loses tone, nuance, etc. You came off as a bit supercilious and condescending in what you said. Maybe I’m wrong in reading it that way. I have my opinions about various prayer forms and customs of various denominations, but I don’t feel any need to express them, or even “make note of a fact” along the lines of, “Well, if people wanna X, Y, Z, they’re free to….” because, one, that’s obvious, and two, that would seem to me to be a bit of a condescending thing to say. Once more, maybe I’m misinterpreting.

Curious Reader, thanks for the kudos.

#27 Comment By TR On April 16, 2018 @ 11:42 pm

“The Magisterium no longer teaches that.” Yes, but Church has not repealed “Unam Sanctum” either. Nor has it repealed Pius IX’s Syllabus of Errors. Which is why it’s foolish to claim that doctrine never changes.

A lot of Protestants (and Catholics) here who are not familiar with Lutheran Worship practices should look up some on Youtube. You will be amazed how liturgically Catholic they are.

#28 Comment By Chantilly Lace On April 17, 2018 @ 12:31 am

I should add to the previous copy/paste job from the salvation portion of the cathechism: that the Church knows that She has done much harm to believers due to her past sins, such sins being the cause for many to exit, and this is all to Her eternal sorrow.

#29 Comment By charles cosimano On April 17, 2018 @ 2:56 am

The Arians produced a number saints, but the most important person they produced mattered more than all of your saints and councils and Popes put together. Sir Isaac Newton. And after he was through it no longer mattered what the Catholic Church had to say about anything.

#30 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 17, 2018 @ 8:44 am

It is possible that Arianism did produce art, architecture, etc., in that context, although I have no idea.

John Milton, generally considered one of the greatest “Christian artists” in the history of the English language, was a neo-Arian. Isaac Newton had neo-Arian beliefs too, and he helped lay the foundations for classical physics and mathematics. I’m not that well versed on the history of the fourth and fifth centuries, but given that Arianism was effectively the majority faith of some of the Germanic nations I’m sure there was plenty of art created there.

#31 Comment By Rick On April 17, 2018 @ 9:50 am

Dogma does not change. Doctrine may change.

#32 Comment By Seven sleepers On April 17, 2018 @ 10:05 am

Uncle Chuckie ftw again. As an orthodox, not sure why more Christians don’t understand your final point. We are not suddenly losing some battle. The arrival of science denuded the church. We still need to explain how Christianity explains the world better than science does or does not. It is not nearly as self evident as is imagined.

In other words, when Christianity ceased to be the “smartest” thing in the world, which it had been forever, it became this uncomfortable guest at the party. Like the 92 year old grandma with bad lipstick at the great grandsons bday party: you have to say hello because it’s just right thing to do. But the odd lipstick and frailty create an aura of pity and apprehension. Neitzche pointed this out ages ago. Why is this still a mystery?

#33 Comment By TR On April 17, 2018 @ 10:33 am

Hector St. Clare: John Milton may well have been a “neo-Arian.” I was taught so in grad school. But I think recent scholars are less certain. In any case, his unitarian beliefs, if they existed, were kept to himself. Paradise Lost is a Trinitarian poem.

#34 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 17, 2018 @ 12:35 pm

As I’ve said before, any meaningful form of Christianity that doesn’t understand the Old Testament exclusively through the lens of the New either reduces to some kind of Unitarianism, Ebionism, or, as in your case, a church-of-one. Which is fine; but none of those are Christianity as they’ve been typically understood.

Well, I was raised in a Presbyterian Sunday School, and the restrictions you place on the validity of the Old Testament entirely escaped me. “Typically understood” is often a weasel phrase for “not to my way of thinking.” I think Pope John Paul II referred to Jews, as a body, by the term “our elder brothers.”

I sometimes reference that people “are free to” do X, when there is an implication that a given orthodoxy is either mandatory or forbidden — a not uncommon theme here of late. And yes, I qualified Marcionite with “quasi” both because I know you haven’t torn the Old Testament out of your Bible, and because you have similarly qualified your own self-description here in the past.

You’d have neither Eastern nor Western Christianity in any recognizable form without the philosophical foundations and vocabulary of Platonism in its various forms.

We might have something much better though.

The pope and most others in the Church hierarchy down to our local priests (save for some) will fail Christ and us, but that’s on their souls, not ours. We are not relieved of our individual responsibility to live God’s word.

If that’s not “more Catholic than the Pope” I don’t know what is. I think Sicilian Woman is quite correct, but her Catholic faith is now a personal relationship with Jesus, or a form of congregationalism with the traditional Roman Catholic rites.

While most scholars see the “Luther to Hitler” link as a very strained one to say the least, without the Holocaust, it’s doubtful that anyone would pay his ideas about the Jews much attention at all.

I don’t think Luther intended the Churban Europa as Orthodox Jews call it (holocaust is a burnt offering to God, and as such is sacred and approved), but there is little doubt that German Lutherans who supported Hitler referenced Luther’s writings on the Jews. Words have meaning, and consequences. Its one reason we should be careful what we say, and how it might be understood by future generations.

#35 Comment By Rombald On April 17, 2018 @ 9:18 pm


Come to think of it, Iglesia ni Kristo, which must be the biggest neo-Arian group today, is architecturally distinctive and impressive, although not my taste – I find it tacky – exuberant, ornate, brilliantly white or pink, neo-Gothic, almost Disneylandish.

However, I’m doubtful whether it’s appropriate to use the word “Arian” for individuals and groups that may be more or less Arian in theology but have no connection with the historic Arian church.

#36 Comment By Patrick On April 18, 2018 @ 10:58 am

“The arrival of science denuded the church.”

Haha – yeah, because “science” refuted the part of the Nicene Creed where it says there is no such thing as gravity! And the part of the Nicene Creed that says the earth is flat! And, um, the Spanish Inquisition. And Leonardo DaVinci. And Rodrigo Borgia!

Good God, Satan is boring.

#37 Comment By Giuseppe Scalas On April 18, 2018 @ 4:45 pm


Pertici is just part of the current wave of rightwing reaction

A rightwing reaction is what follows a leftwing revolution. Is this what you think is happening in the Church?