The Evangelical Catholic Debt

Day three into Future of Catholicism Week some might be surprised by this piece by Hugh Hewitt, which is a virtual valentine to Evangelical Christians:

The brief history of American Catholicism is this: mission, persecution, immigration, community, political power, strength, Vatican II, confusion, decline, scandal, confession, penance, and renewal. A new cycle of mission, persecution, immigration, community, political power, and strength has begun. Provided the reformed American Church remains steadfast in its renewed commitment to “orthodoxy,” all will not only be well, it will be a spectacularly vibrant and wonderful era for the Church in the new world.
The Roman Catholic Church in America owes a profound thank you to American evangelicals who, thoughout the last thirty years, stood in the gap created by a retreating Roman Catholic Church. In many ways they inspired and led the renewal in American Christianity while defending the teachings of the Gospel against the culture even as an enfeebled and wounded Church fell back in disarray. Now that American Protestants and Catholics are both entering eras of growth and confidence — and they are — the opportunities for genuine ecumenical cooperation are extraordinary.

An interesting piece – you’ll want to read it all. And don’t forget to stop by the symposium; today you’ll get to read Joseph Susanka and Danielle Bean, trending toward a similar theme.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • UrbanRevival

    With all due respect to Mr. Hewitt, ecumenism has been a large part of our problem. That the church has been attacked from within from liberal and unorthodox progressives who intended to “protestantize” the Church over the last 40 years cannot be denied.
    I agree that the Catholic Church in America’s return to Orthodoxy (and therefore her former glory) has begun, but only because we begin anew to understand exactly who we are: the one true Church founded by Christ for the salvation of souls.
    Ecumenism? Yes. But only if the final goal is conversion.

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  • archangel

    And for what its worth…

    HH has always referred to himself as a “Presbyterian” Catholic. I personally have had enough of those.

    I don’t mean to diminish HH’s nice sentiment but frankly I have always had a problem with his backhanded “complimentary” treatment of the church as a whole. He has always struck me as your run-of-the-mill cafeterria catholic… picking and choosing what he likes to follow. Only recently has he seemingly longed for and complimented the “orthodoxy” of the church.

  • Manny

    I read that piece yesterday and I have to pretty much agree. I’m no historian of religion but I think the Protestant Evangelical movement has had a positive effect on Catholicism. Despite some Protestant’s anti-Catholic hyteria.

  • Carole

    I could not agree more with Mr Hewitt. If not for an evangelical Lutheran friend in high school who suggested that I pray about a problem that I was having, my life would be completely different than it is today. Because of that conversation, my faith came to life. Because she gave me a bible and the old Back to the Bible Take 5 devotional for teens, I began to experience God communicating with me through his word. I fell in love.

    And then, as I prepared for confirmation, I discovered what the eucharist was, and I marvelled that I could hold my creator and savior in my hand, that I could apologize for offending him in confession to restore order in my relationship with God; and I discovered the scriptural foundation of where the Church gets its teaching authority. The Catholic proposal made sense to me. I think all of this would have been lost on my, had my Lutheran friend not led me to know the Lord in a personal way. Today, I am a daily communicant and a missionary.

    So let me add my ‘here, here’ to the thanks for faithful evangelicals. They made this Catholic who was a habitual thief and liar into a Christian. (That irritates some people I’m sure, but its the truth. If I had waited for a Catholic to give me authentic faith, I think I’d still be waiting. My first Catholic college nearly deprived me of any faith during the 80s.)

  • Wolfwood

    “Ecumenism? Yes. But only if the final goal is conversion.”

    Yes and no. The final goal is unity, ut unum sint. Protestants* have a constant suspicion that Catholics are going to try and convert them (and make them deny Jesus in favor of Mary, etc.). And, to be fair, they have a point: Catholics have a pretty bad reputation for bona fide conversion attempts. When you say “conversion,” people think “Crusades, Conquistadores, and Bloody Mary.”

    This is why I’m so enthusiastic about Anglicanorum Coetibus and the outreach efforts to the SSPX and Eastern Orthodox. No religious group wants to be devoured. They want unity, e pluribus unum. If Rome can demonstrate with the Anglo-Catholics that it can respect differences then perhaps progress can be made with other groups.

    As much progress as there’s been between the two sides, there’s still a huge amount of distrust to be overcome.

    *By Protestants, I’m using the common definition. Really, only the Lutherans and Anglicans still might fit the definition. The rest are large-R or small-r reformed.

  • Tony

    “Ecumenism? Yes. But only if the final goal is conversion.”

    I think that statement needs a qualifier. What we are called to do is love others as Jesus loved us. Conversion is up to God. If we start out simply wanting to convert someone, we have an agenda. Genuine relationships don’t often arise out of agendas but rather mutual respect, understanding and caring about the other person. I talked with someone once who runs a successful youth ministry for kids who have no real religious background. He said the approach they take is to first get to know the kids and show them that they care for them regardless of whether or not they ever become Catholic. That approach has drawn many of the kids toward the Church. People don’t like to feel manipulated. Our primary goal therefore should be to love first, to be the best possible representatives of Christ we can be, and let God handle the rest.

  • David Anders

    I submit that there is another area in which Catholics owe evangelicals a debt of gratitude:
    in the resurgence of Orthodoxy within American Catholicism that the author mentions.
    So many of the voices of Catholic conservatism are themselves former evangelicals who joined the church because of their passion for truth.
    I know I did.

  • Jarrad Faulk

    Overall I have to agree with the premise of the article. I am a convert since 2008 and I have a friend who was raised Catholic, left, and has now been Confirmed with his family this past Easter. We often discussed how, albeit borrowing from orthodox Catholicism, the evangelical churches present such a concise and clear Christology, and how it seems that so many cradle Catholics miss it. Certainly in the Catholic Faith, with its 2000 years of theology, the burden on catechesis is much greater- it is the fullness of Christianity after all! I can see how it can, in light of all the wonderful and beautiful complexities and “thickness” of the Catholic faith, be easy to loose simple and effective truthtelling or catechesis. To put it shortly, if not for the clear (yet still simple and ultimately unfuffilling) presentation of Christ afforded to me via my Baptist upbringing, I would not have come to be blown away by the beauty and majesty of Christ in the Church He founded.

  • Mimsy

    I think I heard HH say once that he had been raised in the RC church, but was now a Protestant.

    As for his point, I agree. My own faith has been strengthened by my many conservative Anglican-Episcopalian friends and my discussions with them.

  • Francis Beckwith

    I am honored that you would mention me along those far more accomplished brethren.

  • Francis Beckwith

    Oops, that sounded really illiterate. Here’s what I meant to say:

    I am honored that Hugh would mention me alongside those far more accomplished brethren.

    I’m tired. Long travel day.

    [Welcome to wearyland. -admin]

  • Western Chauvinist

    Dear Anchoress,

    Have you commented on the article, “Young Adult Catholics: Telling Our Own Stories, and I missed it? I am interested on your take as I find the message appalling, but unsurprising in this Age of Narcissism.

    On HH’s article, I couldn’t agree with him more. The evangelicals I know are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I believe the only thing they’re lacking is the fullness offered in the Sacraments. Even so, they have shamed us post-Vatican II baby-boomers into spending more time in the Word and have been a shining example of how to “go forth to love and serve the Lord.”

    [I am trying to highlight one article a day, and I'm choosing the ones I think will most appeal to or enrage my I haven't decided yet on that one! :-) -admin]

  • Luce

    How very odd! I just finished talking to an evangelical friend not more than an hour ago in which I said how thankful I was, and how thankful my fellow Catholics should be, for our Evangelical brethren. I also told him that from a Catholic’s perspective, I thought that we hold Evangelicals in high regard, appreciating how very similar our theologies are, while it seems that the reverse is not often the case.

    I don’t know about ecumenism, but there is definitely some opportunity for “evangelizing” the Evangelicals.

    Anyway, put me down in the “I Agree” column.

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  • Brett

    “Ecumenism? Yes. But only if the final goal is conversion.”

    Ecumenism with a final goal of conversion is not ecumenism; it’s simply conversion under cover. I prefer the comment that suggests that the final goal is unity. I am not a Roman Catholic Christian but I greatly appreciate the RC church’s witness for Christ today and through history. I realize that my own tradition (Methodism) would not exist without that witness and I’m grateful for it even if I do not at this time find a move to Catholicism needful.

    If our union as the body of Christ may only be made perfect in the life to come, then I will rejoice in part now in the signs of that unity available in the midst of the imperfections and seek to strengthen them where I can. My conversion, should it ever happen, will come from the witness of the Holy Spirit to my heart and mind rather than through efforts at such a result made under other names.

  • Peter


    Thank you for kind words about the Catholic Church. However, I’m not sure I understand your position. You say you don’t find the move to Catholicism needful. Do you mean you don’t believe the Church is who she claims to be, or that you do and remain unmoved?

  • Brett

    Peter — Sorry for my lack of clarity. I do not believe the Catholic church is the sole or the most complete communion with Christ, so I don’t believe I need to join it in order to be a part of the body of Christ.

    I respect those who do believe this. I appreciate it when those believers pray for persons whom they believe are in imperfect communion — such as myself — to come to know Christ in what they see to be a more complete way. If I am wrong, after all, their prayers may help lead me to the truth. If we have agreed to discuss the subject, I appreciate hearing reasons why a change in what I believe is warranted, though I might not accept them.

    If a person who believes I am in imperfect communion agrees to work with me in some area of ministry or discuss some points of theology to learn what understandings we might share and does so *only* in order to convince me I am in error and conversion is necessary, I am less appreciative.

  • Peter


    Thanks for your reply. For my part, I do pray for my separated brethren to come into the Catholic Church because I so desire to see them partake in the unifying Sacrament of the Body and Blood. I know that the graces which flow through the Church like lifeblood are the medicine of holiness. Therefore,I do want you and all others to become partakers.

    If you ever have the time and desire to discuss your particular reasons against becoming Catholic, I would be delighted to hear them and present what I think to be good reasons for becoming Catholic. Even if we do not come to agree in the end, I trust we can both gain a clearer view of the Truth, who is Christ.

    I also want to thank you for your charitable tone. It shows an understanding of the heart of our Lord, as he prayed, “that they may be one.” Too often, parties on both sides of the divide can only look across with sneers. We forget that Christ is returning for a Bride without spot or wrinkle, not a mess of severed members raging against one another. We must all conform ourselves to the one true light, lumen Christi, and I appreciate your willingness to conform yourself to whatever light your are given.

  • UrbanRevival

    thank you for your feedback.

    Yes, we are called to love: the individual.

    But we, should hate the heresy.

  • Johnny Brainetree

    You protestants who are staking so much on ecumenism will be deeply disappointed in the end. Why do you think you know more than your founders who emphatically believed that the papacy was the prophesied antichrist? Oh what a foolish, fatal mistake you are making! The papacy is unchanged, and you will wake up only when it is too late to escape the snare. While you are blinded by false charity, the papacy is steadily seeking to regain control of the world and undo all that protestantism has done. God opened up the New World as a refuge from papal tyranny and priestly intolerance – here you built a new nation upon the broad foundation of civil and religious liberty. The papacy presents a fair front to the world, and you have fallen for it, hook, line and sinker. Like John Adams, our second president, wrote: “I have long been decided in opinion that a free government and the Roman Catholick religion can never exist together in any nation or Country.” “Liberty and Popery cannot live together.”

  • Johnny Brainetree

    P.S. You saw the papacy rebuking the speaker of the house Pelosi, trying to control her. The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” but does the papacy have the least regard for the Constitution. Not, on whit – it despises our Constitution and Bill of Rights! Behold how the bishops pressured Congress into passing the Health Care bill on its terms. 6 of 9 justices of the Supreme Court as Catholic and not one protestant justice! You are asleep, dear protestants, fast asleep! A prayerful study of the word of God would awaken you – the people need to be aroused to resist the stealthy, but rapid progress of the papal power, a most dangerous foe of civil and religious liberty.

    [Actually that is false. You did NOT see the papacy "rebuking the speaker of the house..." Benedict met cordially with Pelosi, as she herself attests. Don't make things up, and take your hate elsewhere -admin]