August 27, 2012

The One True Church

While reading stories about Scottish Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s opposition to the government’s plan to introduce a gay marriage bill, I ran into the video below. The main message of this piece of Roman Catholic propaganda is that the Roman Catholic Church is the One True Church and that all other denominations are chopped liver. It is arrogant and dismissive of Christians everywhere. See for yourself.

What is also interesting about this video is its use of prooftexting, something one does not usually associate with the Roman Catholic Church. However, this video, from Catholic Answers, is intent on justifying some of that church’s distinctive and most problematic doctrines. Look up some of the biblical citations and see for yourself how well they support (or fail to support) the doctrines in question.

Which brings me back to Cardinal O’Brien. Maybe Catholics use prooftexting (and outright deception) more often than we Anglicans realize. In a letter to be read in all Scottish churches yesterday from the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland (of which O’Brien is the president), we find this:
In all things, we as Catholics look to Jesus Christ as our model and teacher. When asked about marriage He gave a profound and rich reply: “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, ‘made them male and female’, and said: ‘This is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two become one body’.” (Matthew, 19:4-5)
This is a clear instruction from Jesus that marriage must be between one man and one woman, right? Well, maybe not. Jesus was not, in fact, “asked about marriage.” He was asked about divorce. Here is Matthew 19: 3–5 (NRSV):
Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”?
The bishops are simply being deceptive and disingenuous here. The passage has nothing at all to say about gay marriage, which, presumably, was not a concern in Jesus’s time.

But let me return to the video. Although it is not an official product of the Roman Catholic Church, I believe it fairly represents the official positions of the church. As such, it offers an important lesson. That lesson is that ecumenical discussions with the Roman Catholic Church (e.g., those carried on by ARCIC, the Anglican—Roman Catholic International Commission) are a complete waste of time and money. The Roman Catholic Church, like the Borg in Star Trek, is not interesting in dialogue—and certainly not in compromise—but only in assimilation.


  1. Although it is not an official product of the Roman Catholic Church, I believe it fairly represents the official positions of the church.

    Well, it largely does . . . now. Just not (nearly as much) when projects like ARCIC commenced in those heady, immediately Post-V2 ecumenical Salad Days.

    JP2 brought a Polish *victimized* "They're Out to Get Us!" attitude to EVERYTHING that wasn't his Vatican inner circle. Ergo, Liberation Theology, nascent RC feminism, ecumenism: it ALL Had.To.Be.Squashed.

    And here we are, right round back to The One True Church and its privileges (always in a world "That's Out to Get Us! Obama is like Stalin!")

    So very sad.

  2. As a cradle Roman Catholic and Episcopal/Anglican convert, I would have to say you're largely correct.

    Not so much on a local level --- this is the last thing that the average Roman Catholic parish priest is worried about, and many of them (especially those who came of age during the 1970s) remain interested in ecumenicalism. Nor do I think that Catholic elementary and high schools teach this. (I got a good grounding in comparative religions at Serra Catholic High in McKeesport.)

    But yes, I think this is definitely Benedict's attitude, and it's certainly the attitude of the Roman Catholic-affiliated pressure groups. They are not interested in dialogue and compromise. To put it another way, there's no "Via Media" ... all roads lead to Rome, and if you're not headed to Rome, you're an obstacle to be pushed aside.

    It's very much a pre-Vatican II way of thinking, and it seems especially virulent among younger Roman Catholics.

  3. I think the "One True Church" thing is deadly be it, Rome, or Pittsburgh. It is simply wrong.

    I suppose the difference is that while B-16 can actually do significant harm, Bobby D. is pretty well impotent.


  4. When I taught for a couple of years at a Roman Catholic high school I was concerned that some students thought that Roman Catholics were being persecuted in the US. Perhaps what they counted as persecution was the fact that people disagreed with them.

    1. I do think there is a tendency, at least among some populations, to interpret disagreement as persecution. One is less likely to make that mistake if one has experienced actual persecution.

  5. "It's very much a pre-Vatican II way of thinking."

    As well as Vatican II itself. From Lumen gentium:

    "Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element. For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.

    "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."

    The one Church of Christ subsists in the visible society governed by pope and bishops. The fact, however, that many elements of holiness and truth exist outside of the visible Church forms a basis for ecumenicism.

    Or read it how you will.

  6. An August 29 story in The Christian Post sheds a good deal of light on the official attitude of the Roman Catholic Church.

    The story is about an address by Pope Benedict XVI in which he suggests that those Catholics who cannot accept the church’s dogma should just leave.

    Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro, the Human Life International Rome Director, is quoted as saying: "Intellectual difficulty is not disobedience. You might have teachings you find difficult to accept. However, (in those circumstances) it is virtuous to believe since you make a sacrifice of your own will, taking as your own the mind of the Church."

    In other words, as a Roman Catholic, your obligation is to pay, pray, and obey.

    The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

  7. This again rather illusrates the diffulty of relying on the press, even the religious press, for accurately conveying what is said in a sermon. Your summary is "he suggests that those Catholics who cannot accept the church’s dogma should just leave." That doesn't exactly strike me as the point of this sermon. In fact, I can't find a thing in it that couldn't have been preached by an Episcopalian:

    Dear brothers and sisters!

    On recent Sundays we have meditated on the “bread of life” sermon that Jesus gives in the synagogue at Capernaum after having fed thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Today, the Gospel presents the reaction of some of Jesus’ disciples to the sermon, a reaction that Christ himself consciously provoked. First of all, John the Evangelist – who was present with the other Apostles – reports that “for this reason many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (John 6:66). Why? Because they did not believe in the words of Jesus when he said: I am the bread that has come down from heaven, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will live forever (cf. John 6:51, 54). These are words that are truly unacceptable, incomprehensible to them. This revelation remains incomprehensible to them, as I said, because they understood it only in a material way, while in those words is foretold the paschal mystery of Jesus in which he would give himself up for the salvation of the world.

    Seeing that many of his disciples left, Jesus turns to the Apostles saying: “Do you also wish to go?” (John 6:67). As in other cases, it is Peter who answers in the name of the Twelve: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” – We too can repeat: “To whom shall we go?” – “You have the words of eternal life and we have believed and have known that you are the Holy One of God" (John 6:68-69). We have a beautiful commentary from Augustine on this passage: “See how Peter, by the gift of God and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, understood him. How else than because he believed? You have the words of eternal life. For you have eternal life in the ministration of your body and blood. And we have believed and have known. Not have known and believed, but believed and known. For we believed in order to know; for if we wanted to know first, and then to believe, we should not be able either to know or to believe. What have we believed and known? That you are Christ, the Son of God; that is, that you are that very eternal life, and that you give in your flesh and blood only that which you are” (Tractates on the Gospel of John, 27, 9).

    In the end, Jesus knew that even among the Twelve there was one who did not believe: Judas. Judas too could have left like the other disciples did; perhaps he should have left had he wanted to be honest. Instead he stayed with Jesus. He stayed not because of faith, not because of love, but with the secret plan to get back at the Master. Why? Because Judas felt that Jesus had betrayed him and he decided to betray Jesus in turn. Judas was a zealot and wanted a victorious Messiah who would lead a revolt against the Romans. Jesus frustrated these expectations. The problem is that Judas did not leave and his gravest fault was falsity, which is the sign of the devil. Because of this Jesus said to the Twelve: “One among you is a devil!” (John 6:70). Let us pray to the Virgin Mary, who helps us to believe in Jesus, as St. Peter did, to be ever more sincere with him and with everyone.

    [Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted the crowds in various languages. In English he said:]

    I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Angelus prayer. I also greet the new students of the Pontifical North American College. Dear seminarians, use your time in Rome to conform yourselves more completely to Christ. Indeed, may all of us remain faithful to the Lord, even when our faith in his teachings is tested. May God bless you!

    [Concluding in Italian he said:]

    I wish everyone a good Sunday.


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