March 29, 2017

May 29, 2013

What Makes Catholics Different from Episcopalians?

Yes, Virginia, there are people who call themselves Episcopalians, and no, they are not the same as Roman Catholics. The Episcopalians like to think themselves as better than the Catholics, because they do not have to kowtow to an old, fuddy-duddy Pope who simply cannot get with the times.

But then the world proves things otherwise. And do you know, Virginia? The Episcopalians do not even notice—which is why they are Episcopalians.

Take last week, for instance.

The Pope gave a sermon at morning Mass in which he said that all were redeemed by the death of Our Savior on the Cross:

The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all!

Jesus’ death on the Cross served to redeem even the atheists—yes, even the Richard Dawkinses and his ilk among us, who think the Pope is under a delusion.

And just a week earlier, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) also gave a sermon (albeit at Curaçao, in the Diocese of Venezuela, and not in some big city like Rome). And what was her theme? Redemption by Our Lord Jesus Christ?

Not exactly:

We live with the continuing tension between holier impulses that encourage us to see the image of God in all human beings and the reality that some of us choose not to see that glimpse of the divine, and instead use other people as means to an end.  We’re seeing something similar right now in the changing attitudes and laws about same-sex relationships, as many people come to recognize that different is not the same thing as wrong.  For many people, it can be difficult to see God at work in the world around us, particularly if God is doing something unexpected.

There are some remarkable examples of that kind of blindness in the readings we heard this morning, and slavery is wrapped up in a lot of it.  Paul is annoyed at the slave girl who keeps pursuing him, telling the world that he and his companions are slaves of God.  She is quite right.  She’s telling the same truth Paul and others claim for themselves. [Fn: “E.g., Rom 1:1.”] But Paul is annoyed, perhaps for being put in his place, and he responds by depriving her of her gift of spiritual awareness.  Paul can’t abide something he won’t see as beautiful or holy, so he tries to destroy it.  It gets him thrown in prison.  That’s pretty much where he’s put himself by his own refusal to recognize that she, too, shares in God’s nature, just as much as he does – maybe more so!  The amazing thing is that during that long night in jail he remembers that he might find God there – so he and his cellmates spend the night praying and singing hymns.  

An earthquake opens the doors and sets them free, and now Paul and his friends most definitely discern the presence of God.  The jailer doesn’t – he thinks his end is at hand.  This time, Paul remembers who he is and that all his neighbors are reflections of God, and he reaches out to his frightened captor.  This time Paul acts with compassion rather than annoyance, and as a result the company of Jesus’ friends expands to include a whole new household.  It makes me wonder what would have happened to that slave girl if Paul had seen the spirit of God in her.

Thus the Pope made in his sermon what is for Catholics (as well as for nearly all Christians, as far as I can tell) a very traditional and not controversial point: Jesus died on the Cross to redeem us all from sin. The Pope went on to say that if atheists and unbelievers will simply follow the natural law that is written on their hearts, and “do good” rather than evil (and even Richard Dawkins claims he does good because it’s the result of “secular, moral philosophy and rational discussion”), then Catholics can “engage them there.” In other words, the Pope is encouraging a “culture of engagement,” a celebration of common ground, rather than a heretical form of salvation by good works.

The liberal media, however, wanted to portray a Pope more to their liking, i.e., a liberal Pope. So they misread the Pope’s word “redeem” as the equivalent of “save.” And they ran with headlines like: “Pope: Second Look at Letting Atheists into Heaven?” Others made a note of the difference (which is everything, theologically speaking). While some atheists even took note, if only to say: “No thanks, Pope—keep it to yourself”—or other (perhaps also predictable) reactions.

The point is, however, that virtually the whole Western world took note of what the Pope had to say.

But our Presiding Bishop? Any reaction to her blasphemy about St. Paul in the Western press?

Zero. Zip. Nada.

Only a few fellow Episcopalians even bothered to take notice.

—Oh, that’s right. The same Catholic reporter who explained Pope Francis’ sermon managed to write about the Presiding Bishop’s sermon, as well. And a few continuing Anglicans, as did an Eastern Orthodox blogger, and—what do you know?—even one other Episcopal bishop. (Not even her supporters in the House of Bishops could manage to utter a word of empathy for her.)

But for all practical purposes, as I say, the reaction was miniscule in comparison to the reaction to the Pope’s sermon. No atheists (or even LGBTs) trumpeted her putdown of St. Paul. No feminist theologians jumped on her bandwagon.

Instead, the reaction could pretty well be summed up as ...

Embarrassment. Yes, that’s it—shame and embarrassment among Episcopalians; shrugs and “so what?” from all others.

While most Catholics and other Christians took heart at the Pope’s affirmation of traditional doctrine—because he expressed it in a new way. A way charged full of hope in renewal of the Holy Spirit—without having to put down St. Paul, or to twist the narrative in Acts to selfish ends.

Yes, Virginia, that is the difference between Roman Catholics and Episcopalians.

The Catholics have their old fuddy-duddy, Pope Francis, who breathes new life into traditional doctrines.

And we Episcopalians have to make do with—Bishop Katharine, who with her every utterance manages to deaden and stultify the gospel of the saints.

[N.B.: In accordance with SF comment policy, please do not post comments along the lines of “I don’t know why anyone stays in the Episcopal Church”, or similar hortatory sentiments.]

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A story comes to mind. Sir Lawrence Olivier was told by a bishop that he had the most extraordinary gift of taking fiction and making it sound like truth. Sir Lawrence replied that the bishop had an even more remarkable gift in that he could make truth sound like fiction.

[1] Posted by Pb on 5-29-2013 at 01:30 PM · [top]

A story comes to mind. Sir Lawrence Olivier was told by a bishop that he had the most extraordinary gift of taking fiction and making it sound like truth. Sir Lawrence replied that the bishop had an even more remarkable gift in that he could make truth sound like fiction.

[2] Posted by Pb on 5-29-2013 at 01:30 PM · [top]

The headline immediately caused a few things to come to mind:
1.  Highly unlikely the RC’s have any Muslim-Episcopal priests
2.  Priests who publicly admit they do not believe Jesus to be The Way, The Truth and The Life - are not priests.

There are more but I’ll bet you get my drift.

[3] Posted by Jackie on 5-29-2013 at 02:13 PM · [top]

Do not miss the take by the Catholic reporter. It seems that Jesus deprived people of their spirituality on a number of occasions. Also, if different is not wrong, then I am not wrong when I disagree with KJS.

[4] Posted by Pb on 5-29-2013 at 02:28 PM · [top]

One of the beauties of the American brand of Anglicanism is that TEC isn’t hierarchical at a national level. Were the PB to celebrate black mass, faithful Episcopalians could roll their eyes, sigh, say “Well, there she goes again; bless her heart” and go back to that after-dinner glass of port and a nice cigar. As long as their own diocesan bishop is faithful. No one bishop in TEC outranks another bishop. The founders made sure that would be the case, because the founding bishops didn’t like each other. TEC has no archbishops, and no popes.

However, if the Bishop of Rome were to do such a thing, those under him would either have to go out looking for black hosts, find another job, or get Guido to fix things. With a top-down hierarchy, what a “pope” says and does is doctrine. Throughout history, popes have misused authority and power in ways that even surpass the antics of Her Unholiness, KJS.

The Bishop of Rome’s sermon is interesting, and it does warrant clarification. I also think it’s quite unlikely that he is intending to teach universalism. In contrast, the PB’s sermon is quite clear.

Ah - time to go fetch a pre-dinner glass of port and a nice cigar. Yes, anything she says is quite irrelevant, and unworthy of media coverage.

[5] Posted by Ralph on 5-29-2013 at 04:16 PM · [top]

I think there is an enormous difference between what the Pope said (essentially, there is only one redeemer, Jesus Christ, who came to redeem the whole world) and what KJS and other say (Jesus is a way to redemption, but there are other ways).  I am inclined to take the Pope’s words in the context of Cranmer’s theology:

“Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus came, and died, for us all, even me, regardless of my sins or my belief in Him, He still bore my sins, and those of all mankind.  I don’t think we need confuse what the Pope said with Universalism- because it isn’t.  The desire to equate the Pope’s statement with KJS’ various heresies is a desire on the part of the Piskie Cafe set to sow confusion and doubt among Christians.

If the Pope comes out and says that demonic possession and being filled with the Holy Spirit are the same thing, then he would be saying what KJS said a couple weeks ago.  But I certainly don’t read him as saying anything remotely like that.

[6] Posted by tjmcmahon on 5-29-2013 at 05:16 PM · [top]

Please give KJS a break. 
She got a pointy hat, bishops applaud her every word (or remain silent) and she gets to wander around the world spouting whatever comes to her theologically impoverished mind.  Given those conditions just about anyone will start believing their own stuff…

[7] Posted by RalphM on 5-29-2013 at 05:34 PM · [top]

She deserves a break?  WHY?

[8] Posted by cennydd13 on 5-29-2013 at 06:44 PM · [top]

Thank you Mr Haley. I enjoyed your article and I love the comment by Ralph m. I as an Anglican really like the new Pope. He is saying things we need to hear and is a breath of fresh air for all of us christians.well thats all for now.god bless.sheba

[9] Posted by sheba on 5-29-2013 at 06:48 PM · [top]

““Well, there she goes again; bless her heart” and go back to that after-dinner glass of port and a nice cigar. As long as their own diocesan bishop is faithful. No one bishop in TEC outranks another bishop. “

Gee, what world do you live in?  If your diocesan bishop is faithful, he has already been “conciliated”, and if he keeps on being faithful, the bishop who is not more powerful than other bishops will depose him, as she has a dozen others.  So long as one bishop can declare that another bishop has renounced his orders, and get away with it, she outranks other bishops, TEC founding fathers notwithstanding.

[10] Posted by tjmcmahon on 5-29-2013 at 09:00 PM · [top]

Jackie, don’t underestimate the potential for Catholic clergy to be complete theological flakes. I’m not talking about about the really morally bad guys, but many who would be right there with your presiding bishop.

I have a sincere question: my understanding is that the pope’s statement would contrast mostly with a Calvinist understanding of limited atonement, that Jesus only died for the elect, if that is a fair representation of Calvinism.

And no, the pope was not preaching universalism, he was preaching engagement. Futilely, I fear, but worth the effort.

[11] Posted by Words Matter on 5-29-2013 at 09:44 PM · [top]

She deserves a break?  WHY?

Isn’t it obvious? She has been baptized!

[12] Posted by Ed the Roman on 5-29-2013 at 09:45 PM · [top]

Words Matter (11), your understanding is correct. Limited atonement (Jesus died not to redeem the entire world, but only the elect whom God predestined for salvation) is a corollary which many Protestant churches (both Calvinist and other reformed churches, so not “mostly Calvinist”) draw from the doctrine of predestination (whether double or single). As a Catholic, and even though St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas held with St. Paul the same doctrine of predestination (single, not double), the Pope (in accordance with the Catechism, para. 616) does not draw the same corollary from the premise, but believes that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was redemption for all mankind—believers and unbelievers alike.

I agree with you that the Pope was not preaching Universalism, as the liberal press would have wished. The difficulties which his homily has encountered stem entirely from his rather loose use (at least, in English translation; we do not have his Italian ready to hand) of the words “children of God”, which in the NT have a special meaning (e.g.,, Rom. 9:8; 1 John 5:2; Rom. 8:14-17). They refer to those who have already confessed, through God’s grace, their faith in Christ crucified, whereas the Pope seems to use the term to be the equivalent of “made in the image of God”—which would refer to all humans, believers or not.

Thus, in traditional NT theology, the “children of God” have been both redeemed and saved (justified), through Jesus’ sacrifice and God’s grace inducing their faith in his resurrection. It thus makes no sense to certain theologically trained ears to speak of Jesus “redeeming” the children of God, because he not only redeemed them through his death on the Cross, but he saved them through their faith in him as their redeemer, by the grace of God. By his use of those words (“children of God”) in the sense of “made in God’s image”, the Pope’s homily appears to conflate the latter (“made in God’s image”, which is a characteristic of atheists and believers alike, as the humans they both are) with the justification which believers achieve through their faith in Christ, through the grace of God extended to them. And as atheists well know, they do not have (or even ask) God’s grace so long as they profess atheism.

I happen to think that the Pope was at most chargeable with a loose use of theological terminology, given the audience he was addressing (and even that would depend upon having his actual Italian text to construe). Others, however, believe that this lapse was a forewarning of liberalism in high places, which eventually will out itself. The one undeniable fact is that time will tell.

[13] Posted by A. S. Haley on 5-30-2013 at 12:02 AM · [top]

Hi Words Matter,

You asked: “I have a sincere question: my understanding is that the pope’s statement would contrast mostly with a Calvinist understanding of limited atonement, that Jesus only died for the elect, if that is a fair representation of Calvinism…”

It does contrast with the doctrine of limited atonement…but that doctrine is not limited to Calvinists. The idea is that since God both predestined and foreknew all who would believe and since he chose them in Christ from before the beginning (Eph 1), he sent his Son to save those he foreknew.

Does this mean his death has no bearing on the world? No. All grace is grounded in the sacrificial life death and resurrection of Jesus - that includes common grace.

My problem with the Pope’s words and where I think they do lean toward a kind of pelagian pluralism is that he declared that Atheists can do good and he grounded that “doing good” in redemption.

Calvinists would certainly agree that all grace - common grace include- is grounded in Christ’s atoning work so if a Calvinist were to say what the Pope said (at least about doing good) few eyebrows would be raised. We would understand that the “good” the Atheist does counts for nothing before God. Dirty rags.

But as I understand the Roman catechism the Redemptive work of Christ was for the whole world but it is only accessed personally by and through the graces dispensed by the Church to individuals who turn to her. One of those graces is the ability, by grace, to do good meritoriously. This grace can be dispensed to those who have not heard the gospel but who are seeking truth both in word and deed. But the Atheists to whom the Pope was speaking do not fit that category.

So, it seems to me that by linking the good of the Atheist to the redeeming work of Christ specifically within the framework established by the Catechism the Pope communicated that Atheists good may be meritorious.

That does open up a kind of pelagian style religious pluralism…all who “Do Good” may be saved based on the work of Christ.

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-30-2013 at 05:42 AM · [top]

It appears to be the case that the Pope is not a Calvinist.

One would have to live in an atheist cloister to think that this is late breaking news.

[15] Posted by Just a Baptist on 5-30-2013 at 06:40 AM · [top]

Just a Baptist

Try to read what I have written. My criticism is not that the pope isn’t Calvinist but that his words conflict with his own Catechism in ways that tend toward pelagian pluralism…

PS. This is Matt writing from Anne’s account…sorry for any confusion.

[16] Posted by Anne Kennedy on 5-30-2013 at 07:03 AM · [top]

Just a Baptist—I think you may have misunderstood Matt’s point above.  Matt’s not talking about concerns over the Pope’s beliefs about Christ’s redemption for every human being, since that is Roman Catholic doctrine [though obviously, Calvinists would not grant that].

Nor does he seem to be concerned about the Pope’s beliefs about pagans being able to “do good” things, as common grace to know and sometimes do God’s law has been liberally bestowed [“being good” in an absolute goodness sort of way is problematic from most Christian perspectives though].

He seems to be concerned in the Pope’s rather hazy and muddled words about atheists being able to “do good” because they have been redeemed which seems to place them squarely into the category of being capable of performing meritorious works, post-redemption, as a part of a group of converted Christians who have turned to the Church [ie, Rome], when obviously, atheists are no such thing!  That is not even RC doctrine.

My own kindest thought about Pope Francis is simply that he’s not a very precise thinker or speaker, as Pope Benedict was, and the contrast is . . . unfortunate.  I have some less kind thoughts about *why that might be*, but the point from Allan still stands which is that even if the very worst were true about Pope Francis—that he is a birkenstock-wearing, crunchy, affirming liberal who will stick to the Church’s doctrine and practice—that would not even be close to the rank apostasy [not to mention clownish ignorance and ham-handedly crude rhetorical ramblings] of Katherine Jefferts Schori.

[17] Posted by Sarah on 5-30-2013 at 07:10 AM · [top]

He is also a Jesuit who really hacked off his brother Jesuits in Argentina by insisting that they be Catholic priests, so to speak, and shut down Liberation Theology tout de suite. So Birkenstocks aside, when it comes to well-informed enemies, he has some of the right ones.

[18] Posted by Ed the Roman on 5-30-2013 at 07:21 AM · [top]

The lack of reaction from Episcopal bishops (other than +Martins) to the P.B.‘s trail-blazing efforts in Curacao would suggest that her innovations are considered acceptable, or perhaps to be considered as if they were from someone speaking ex-cathedra, and are infallible, or not to be questioned openly. So maybe we aren’t all that different after all.

[19] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 5-30-2013 at 09:11 AM · [top]

I agree with Sara wrt ‘lack of precision’ but what I find most interesting is the lack of comment: if I google search on ‘pope francis redeemed atheists’ the expected liberal sources show up but I don’t find comments from the expected orthodox sites yet.  Perhaps that is just as well, waiting for more precision.

[20] Posted by tdunbar on 5-30-2013 at 11:39 AM · [top]

Mr. Haley and Fr. Kennedy,

Helpful and interesting replies. Thank you.

[21] Posted by Words Matter on 5-30-2013 at 11:45 AM · [top]

I realize that I am not aware of all of the movements in Christianity and I am far from an expert in this field, but I can’t help but wonder who are these new Calvinists are that I keep hearing about? The only religion I know of that has a history of Calvinism is the Presbyterian Church and they do not fit the description of Calvinists that I keep hearing people talk about. I may be wrong but I am beginning to wonder if the new Calvinists are just straw men created for the sole purpose of debate.

[22] Posted by Betty See on 5-30-2013 at 12:20 PM · [top]

I hope I can clarify my previous statement by saying that I understand debate, comparisons and interest in John Calvin’s theology with regard to his influence on different churches, but only wonder who these people are who are currently being identified as “Calvinists”.

[23] Posted by Betty See on 5-30-2013 at 12:52 PM · [top]

Hi Betty See, I consider myself a Calvinist and I believe David Ould would so identify himself.

The “new Calvinists” is a term that refers to a resurgence of Calvinism among young evangelicals. New Calvinists, very generally speaking are doctrinally ‘like’ the old Calvinists…with the exception that some of them have added elements of charismatic practice.

[24] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-30-2013 at 01:04 PM · [top]

In the hope of getting back on subject I can only say that The Presiding Bishop’s sermons seem to be designed to drive conservative Christian believers from her church, yet I stay because I think that it is still His church.

[25] Posted by Betty See on 5-30-2013 at 01:23 PM · [top]

Thanks for the Clarification Matt, I am only familiar with Calvin’s theology with regard to predestination and I realize that is not the whole of Calvin’s theology. I have not heard much good being said about Calvinists lately so I would be open to hearing a more thoughtful explanation of the new Calvinists at some time.

[26] Posted by Betty See on 5-30-2013 at 01:39 PM · [top]

I believe Metropolitan Jonah had some apropos comments regarding Calvinism not long ago Betty.

[27] Posted by via orthodoxy on 5-30-2013 at 01:59 PM · [top]

Met. Jonah did indeed have some comments…he called John Calvin a heretic…which, coming from a leader of a church with such deficient anthropology (theology of human nature) and soteriology (how God saves men), I tend to take as a compliment. Thanks be to God we have such enemies.

[28] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-30-2013 at 02:22 PM · [top]

Hi Betty See,

I’d like that too. Generally the people who are most angry and bitter about Calvinists have very little understanding of what Calvin taught or what Calvinists believe. This is probably not the thread for it though.

[29] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 5-30-2013 at 02:30 PM · [top]

Jesus DID come to redeem everyone; if only they believe…  If not, then you have to take the “down” elevator…  :-(

[30] Posted by B. Hunter on 6-3-2013 at 04:25 PM · [top]

In response to the cautionary note, I do in fact know why some people stay in the Episcopal Church.

And I’m not telling.  };->

[31] Posted by Ed the Roman on 6-4-2013 at 07:26 AM · [top]

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