Santorum & Opus Dei

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum is often assumed by the media, the general public, his supporters, his opponents, and evangelicals to be an evangelical.  He isn’t.  He is a Roman Catholic.  In fact, he is really, really Catholic, a fellow-traveller with Opus Dei, an organization that some say is more Catholic than the Pope.  This article gives the details of his pilgrimage to an ever-stricter Catholicism:  Rick Santorum’s journey to devout Catholicism, view of religion in governance – The Washington Post.

 

Declaring war on religion

Michael Gerson on the Obama administration’s mandate that Roman Catholic institutions, as well as those of other churches and pro-life organizations, must provide employees health insurance that will give them free birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients:

The religious exemption granted by Obamacare is narrower than anywhere else in federal law — essentially covering the delivery of homilies and the distribution of sacraments. Serving the poor and healing the sick are regarded as secular pursuits — a determination that would have surprised Christianity’s founder.

Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists. . . .

The implications of Obama’s power grab go further than contraception and will provoke opposition beyond Catholicism. Christian colleges and universities of various denominations will resist providing insurance coverage for abortifacients. And the astounding ambition of this federal precedent will soon be apparent to every religious institution. Obama is claiming the executive authority to determine which missions of believers are religious and which are not — and then to aggressively regulate institutions the government declares to be secular. It is a view of religious liberty so narrow and privatized that it barely covers the space between a believer’s ears.

Obama’s decision also reflects a certain view of liberalism. Classical liberalism was concerned with the freedom to hold and practice beliefs at odds with a public consensus. Modern liberalism uses the power of the state to impose liberal values on institutions it regards as backward. It is the difference between pluralism and anti-­clericalism.

The administration’s ultimate motivation is uncertain. Has it adopted a radical secularism out of conviction, or is it cynically appealing to radical secularists? In either case, the war on religion is now formally declared.

via Obama’s radical power grab on health care – The Washington Post.

Lutheranism & the Antichrist

The teaching that got Michele Bachmann into trouble–that the papacy is the antichrist– and made her leave Lutheranism in order to be a creditable presidential candidate (see the other post for today) is not limited to the Wisconsin Synod.  It is a tenet of the Lutheran Confessions, serving as the climax of Melanchthon’s Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope (41-42) and affirmed throughout the Smalcald Articles.  This, however, is not in the sense of the premillennialist understanding of the Antichrist, as in the Left Behind series or in the various historical figures from Napoleon to Henry Kissinger who have been given this label.  Rather, it is in this sense, as explained in another one of those confessions, referring to the notion that humanly devised ritual, rather than the Gospel, confer saving power:

If the adversaries defend these human services as meriting justification, grace, and the remission of sins, they simply establish the kingdom of Antichrist. For the kingdom of Antichrist is a new service of God, devised by human authority rejecting Christ, just as the kingdom of Mahomet has services and works through which it wishes to be justified before God; nor does it hold that men are gratuitously justified before God by faith, for Christ’s sake. Thus the Papacy also will be a part of the kingdom of Antichrist if it thus defends human services as justifying.  Apology of the Augsburg Confession XV. 18.

Now Lutherans are not alone in this.  Reformed confessions say the same thing in the Westminster Confession, Chap. 25, Art. 6, though conservative Calvinists in the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church have apparently repudiated that section. (Perhaps someone from one of those traditions could explain how it is  possible to be a confessional body, as these groups claim to be, while rejecting part of the confession.)  The Reformed Baptists also associate the pope with anti-christ in their statement of faith.  (See this Catholic site, which keeps track of such things.)

Perhaps a better question could be asked by reporters to ferret out “anti-Catholicism” with an even broader application:  “Do you consider Roman Catholics to be Christians?”   Many, if not most, evangelicals will say, “no.”  Lutherans, on the other hand, including those who believe the pope to be antichrist will say, “yes.”   The Church of Rome is still part of the church, since it retains the Word and Sacraments, which are the marks of the Church, and the Gospel is still present in its liturgy and in the teachings of many of its pastors and theologians.  A major argument that Roman Catholics are part of the true church is precisely that, according to 2 Thessalonians 2, the antichrist will arise in the true church!  Lutherans, unlike many other conservative Protestants, do affirm that Roman Catholics may well and often do have saving faith in Christ.

These theological subtleties, of course, will go over the head of most reporters and other outside observers.  Does that mean it would be impossible for a confessional Lutheran–or a Calvinist who confesses the whole Westminster Confession or an Evangelical open about his or her beliefs about who is a true Christian–to win the Catholic vote and thus win national office?

Bachmann is no longer a Lutheran

It is now official, I guess.  Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann left the Wisconsin Synod shortly before running for president. This, as the press started portraying the conservative Lutheran denomination as a weird cult for believing that the Pope is the antichrist and that homosexuality is a sin.  From the Washington Post story:

The conservative church that Michele Bachmann officially left days before launching her presidential campaign said Friday that the Minnesota congresswoman’s decision came at their request.

“The impetus came from the church,” said Joel Hochmuth, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the denominational organization that includes the church. “For the pastor’s sake, he wanted to know where he stood with the family.”

Bachmann (R) had stopped attending Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church two years ago but did not formally end her membership until June 21, a date first reported by CNN. The timing raised questions because it came shortly before she formally kicked off her presidential campaign in Waterloo, Iowa, and because the church has taken controversial stands on Catholicism and homosexuality.

Candidates have often come under fire for the religious company they keep. During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was forced to disavow his affiliation with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright after videos emerged of Wright’s more controversial sermons, which included statements critical of the United States and what many considered to be slurs against white people.

A spokeswoman for Bachmann’s congressional office said she now attends a non-denominational church in the Stillwater, Minn., area but declined to specify which one.

“As the family’s schedule has allowed, they have attended their current church throughout the past two years,” spokeswoman Becky Rogness said in an e-mail.

The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod is a conservative branch of Lutheranism that has about 390,000 adherents across the country. It has been criticized in part because it holds that the Catholic pope is the Antichrist. Bachmann has said emphatically that she does not share that view, and church officials recently told the Atlantic that it is not a central tenet of the faith.

The synod — a term Hochmuth defined as “a fellowship of congregations that hold to the same beliefs and doctrines” — also believes that homosexuality is a sin and can be changed.

Bachmann’s husband, Marcus Bachmann, has recently come under fire over his Christian-based counseling center’s treatment of gay clients. Several recent reports say the center practices “reparative therapy,” which seeks to “cure” gays and lesbians of their homosexuality.

On Thursday, Marcus Bachmann acknowledged in an interview with the Star-Tribune of Minneapolis that counselors at Bachmann and Associates do treat homosexuals who seek to become heterosexual, but that it is not the clinic’s main focus, and “we don’t have an agenda or a philosophy of trying to change someone.”

Michele Bachmann stopped attending services at the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church after she moved to a different part of town, according to media reports. Around the time that her campaign for president geared up this spring, the Rev. Marcus Birkholz asked that she make clear her relationship with the church, Hochmuth said.

The Bachmanns then asked the church council that they be removed from the membership ranks — a request that is not required of a person that leaves the church, but assists with recordkeeping and helps the church ensure that “you’re in the spiritual care of someone else,” Hochmuth said. “In other words, we would want to know if you are being ‘fed the word,’ as we say.”

Bachmann did not specify to which church she was moving, Hochmuth said.

via Bachmann left church at pastor’s request, official says – The Washington Post.

The story is accompanied by another story (from the Religious News Service) on the WELS stance on the anti-Christ and the associated charge of anti-Catholicism (the abundance of links will fill you in on the whole controversy):

 The Lutheran denomination that GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann quit in June sought to explain its belief that the papacy is the anti-Christ after reports questioned whether Bachmann is anti-Catholic. . . .

The denomination says on its Web site: “We identify the anti-Christ as the papacy. This is an historical judgment based on Scripture.’’ . . .The Republican, who has surged in recent presidential polls, denied that she is anti-Catholic in a 2006 debate. “It’s abhorrent, it’s religious bigotry. I love Catholics, I’m a Christian, and my church does not believe that the pope is the anti-Christ, that’s absolutely false.’’Bachmann also said that her pastor, the Rev. Marcus Birkholz, told her he was “appalled that someone would put that out.’’

According to Hochmuth, the pastor told Bachmann that WELS “primarily views the office of the papacy as the anti-Christ, not the individual popes themselves.’’

Asked for comment, Birkholz said Thursday, “I have been asked by my congregation not to give any more interviews.’’

An online report in The Atlantic magazine on Thursday (July 14) reported on WELS’ anti-papal doctrine, and questioned whether Bachmann also subscribes to the view.

Bill Donohue, president of the watchdog Catholic League, said he does not believe Bachmann is anti-Catholic, but that “it is not inappropriate to ask some pointed questions of Rep. Bachmann and her religion’s tenets.’’

Hochmuth said in an interview the anti-papal doctrine is “not one of our driving views, and certainly not something that we preach from the pulpit.’’ Hochmuth said he doubts whether many members of WELS are aware of the doctrine, which dates to Protestant Reformer Martin Luther.

“As a confessional Lutheran church, we hold to the teachings of Martin Luther who himself maintained the papacy, and in turn the pope, has set himself up in place of Christ, and so is the anti-Christ,’’ Hochmuth said.

He also described the anti-Christ as a theological principle, not a “cartoon character with horns.’’

Hochmuth added that “we love and respect Catholic Christians … Yet we pray that they would come to see the errors of their church’s official doctrine that the pope is infallible and that no one can be saved outside of the Roman Catholic Church.’’

Was this well-handled?Is this responsible reporting?Was Michele Bachmann driven from her church in the same way Barack Obama was?

Should confessional Lutherans now refuse to support Bachmann now that she has abandoned her confirmation pledge to uphold the Lutheran confessions?

UPDATE:  The article in The Atlantic that broke the story is not all that bad, in that it explains the theological position pretty well.  HT to Jonathan and Todd for that.

Homosexuality & abusing priests

A $2 million study of the priest child abuse scandal, paid for in part by the Roman Catholic Church,  takes the politically-correct position that homosexuality had nothing to do with it.  Louie Verrecchio, himself a Catholic, disagrees, based on the report’s own data:

On May 18, researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice released their long-awaited final report, “Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010.”

The research team, led by Karen Terry, Ph.D., gathered an impressive amount of information from which they drew a number of conclusions; the most unsettling of which is the claim that homosexuality is unrelated to the abuse (particularly of adolescent males, the primary victims in the crisis.)

Though 81 percent of the victims were post-pubescent males, researchers downplayed the homosexual connection by suggesting that this simply reflects the fact that offenders had greater access to boys. The report also proposes the possibility that, “Although the victims of priests were most often male, thus defining the acts as homosexual, the priest did not at any time recognize his identity as homosexual.”

A less politically correct conclusion, it would seem, is to acknowledge that the offending clerics were perhaps unwilling to take “ownership” of their struggle with homosexuality. In any event, this line of argument appears to be little more than a red herring.

According to Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons, a consultant to the Vatican Congregation for Clergy and a leading expert on clerical sex abuse, how an abuser may “recognize” himself is not entirely relevant; rather, the homosexual acts alone testify to “deep seated” homosexuality.

“We are identified by our behavior,” Dr. Fitzgibbons said in a recent telephone interview. “The attempt to distance the homosexual acts in question from a personal struggle against SSA (Same Sex Attraction) on the part of the abuser is inconsistent with clinical data.”

Information found in the report itself also strongly suggests that the abuse is directly related to homosexuality. For instance: “This excuse (that the victim initiated physical intimacy) was particularly common for priests who were accused of abusing adolescents, who referred to the abuse as a ‘relationship.’”

Does this scenario, in which an adult male imagines that he is involved in a sexually active consenting “relationship” with an adolescent boy, describe a heterosexual crime of convenience? So determined to deny the obvious, the John Jay researchers are at pains to have you believe that it does.

The report also reveals that abusers often “groomed” their victims over a period of time prior to the onset of abuse; where grooming is defined as “a premeditated behavior intended to manipulate the potential victim into complying.”

This information effectively undermines the “crime of convenience” explanation for the preponderance of adolescent male victims. It also clearly indicates a direct connection to homosexuality, but the John Jay researchers resolutely insist otherwise claiming that the abusers were simply men who “appear to have had certain vulnerabilities to commit abuse (for example, emotional congruence with children or adolescents), experienced increased stressors from work (for example, having recently received more responsibilities, such as becoming a pastor), and had opportunities to abuse (for example, unguarded access to minors).” 

via John Jay Study: A $2 million exercise in political correctness :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

The abusers had “vulnerabilities to commit abuse”?  They were vulnerable?  So  they were the victims?

HT:  David Mills

Catholicism’s secret sins

I’m not a Sinead O’Connor fan, but the Irish singer–notorious for tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul on “Saturday Night Live” some years ago–has written a scathing op-ed piece on the priest child-molestation scandal coming out  in Ireland.  She herself says that she was misused in her childhood in a Catholic reform schools, though apparently not sexually.  She does not accept the current pope’s apology:

Benedict’s apology gives the impression that he heard about abuse only recently, and it presents him as a fellow victim: “I can only share in the dismay and the sense of betrayal that so many of you have experienced on learning of these sinful and criminal acts and the way Church authorities in Ireland dealt with them.” But Benedict’s infamous 2001 letter to bishops around the world ordered them to keep sexual abuse allegations secret under threat of excommunication — updating a noxious church policy, expressed in a 1962 document, that both priests accused of sex crimes and their victims “observe the strictest secret” and be “restrained by a perpetual silence.”

via To Sinead O’Connor, the pope’s apology for sex abuse in Ireland seems hollow – washingtonpost.com.

I remember coming across a quotation from a bishop who said that we just didn’t realize back then how traumatic this kind of sexual contact from a priest would be for children! Critics are pointing out that the church authorities treated a priest molesting children as a moral matter, rather than as a criminal matter. They should have called the police. Instead, they imposed silence.

Is there any way to mitigate these charges?

Catholics will stop social services if D.C. passes gay marriage law

Catholic Church gives D.C. ultimatum on same-sex marriage issue – washingtonpost.com:

The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care.

Under the bill, headed for a D.C. Council vote next month, religious organizations would not be required to perform or make space available for same-sex weddings. But they would have to obey city laws prohibiting discrimination against gay men and lesbians.

Fearful that they could be forced, among other things, to extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, church officials said they would have no choice but to abandon their contracts with the city.

"If the city requires this, we can't do it," Susan Gibbs, spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said Wednesday. "The city is saying in order to provide social services, you need to be secular. For us, that's really a problem." . . . .

Catholic Charities, the church’s social services arm, is one of dozens of nonprofit organizations that partner with the District. It serves 68,000 people in the city, including the one-third of Washington’s homeless people who go to city-owned shelters managed by the church.

Is this the right thing to do?