As a Catholic blogger, I’ve immersed myself into joining several social media blogging groups in order to help my articles gain more traffic. Most of the groups I am involved with are generally non-denominational Christian bloggers groups. While my articles are mostly well-received in Catholic circles, general Christian sites tend to be a mixed bag. Most Christian bloggers I’ve come across (Catholic and Protestant) are quite pleasant to engage with. But when it comes to discussing topics and worldviews we are passionate about, sometimes it comes across as abrasive, patronizing or resentful to those who might vehemently disagree with us. As I defend Catholic teachings in my own writing, I’m aware that I need to be careful with how I communicate my position without insulting a person’s character or misrepresenting their viewpoint. Even Scripture itself says,
“And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by humankind,but no human being can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison.With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.” — James 3:6-10 RSV
The following is my discussion with a fellow Christian blogger who happens to be a moderator in one of the blogging groups I’m in. She commented on my piece The Priesthood & “Call No Man Father” in response to my perceived “tone” towards Evangelicals. So in lieu of this edifying exchange, I decided to turn it into a blog article!
Bear in mind, I had to lightly edit to make this exchange easily readable. Her responses will be labelled in red and mine will be in regular black, while other commenters who chime in will be labelled in differentcolors. I have also attached ‘side links’ to my other articles to expand more on the talking points of the exchange.
I don’t know where you went that took that passage quite that literally, but I really despise your tone toward evangelicals. My rejection of the Catholic priesthood has nothing to do with calling them father.
I’m sorry to hear you feel that way about my article. I tried to make it clear in my post that I can sympathize with certain Protestants who are apprehensive towards the Catholic priesthood in light of Sola Deo Gloria. I guess it just depends on the view of the denomination or the individual.
In my experiences, the hostility goes both ways. I’ve written other pieces condemning hostility from Catholics towards Protestants. I hope this somewhat offers some clarity regarding where I’m coming from.
René, I don’t think you understand why we reject the Catholic priesthood. It’s complex. I’ll read your article but in general find your tone toward Protestants unfair and offensive.
Well, to be fair, I find the tone of many Evangelicals towards Catholics repugnant as well. I guess we have more in common than we realize.
Your quote – “I think it’s important to understand that not all of them expressively hate Catholics.” I read this as most hate Catholics but not all do. I appreciate that you say you want to be fair and treat Protestants as fellow Christians, but your tone in many of your articles is snarky and rude.
Except what you’re interpreting is not what I said at all. I totally understand that Evangelicals have a genuine concern for the salvation of Catholics, as do Catholics have for non-Catholics.
When anyone says “not all of this group exhibit X character trait” it is implied that many do. Instead of saying while some vocal Protestants can appear to be antagonist towards Catholics, most are fellow brothers in Christ who differ in theological beliefs and scriptural understanding. Can you see the difference in tone between the two sentences?
I see what you mean, yes.If my tone is a concern, I’ll work towards improving it.
And your article simplified the Protestant position against the priesthood to a point that is highly objectionable and not fair to Protestants.
I understand that there are varying schools of thought and scriptural interpretation within Protestantism. My audience is largely Catholic and sometimes it’s difficult to articulate that to an audience that largely doesn’t understand the diversity of Christ-followers who aren’t (Roman) Catholic. But it also might be possible that the issue with “calling no man father” in a literal sense might be a fringe movement that I might have experienced during my time as an Evangelical. Maybe it’s not as common as I think it is?
Yes!! I don’t think anyone I know (and I’ve been in various Protestant traditions) believes in taking that passage that literally! We believe no man should be elevated above Christ. He is our priest and Father.
Amen! I fully agree!
From my view, my only issues with the priesthood are forced celibacy and confession to a person rather than to God.
Well, the simplest way I can explain confession comes from James 5:16 (KJV),
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
I think confessing to an individual (whether a priest or a fellow brother or sister in Christ) is a tangible way of being open to God’s healing grace. To me, it’s kind of like seeing a therapist and unloading whatever internal baggage is eating us inside. Kind of like shedding light unto darkness. And it allows the individual members of the Body of Christ to work with one another as God intended.
As far as celibacy is concerned, nobody is forced into it. And it’s more of a ‘discipline’ that is subject to change as opposed to a capital-D doctrine. Most people would be surprised to know that we do have married priests. Many priests in the Byzantine rite are married. Protestant ministers who are married and convert to Catholicism usually become priests. Father Dwight Longenecker is a former Anglican priest who is married and is now a well-known Catholic priest and apologist.
The idea of celibacy is often a heated topic because the first thing that always come to mind is the sexual abuse scandals. I don’t think celibacy has anything to do with sexual deviancy since we as Christians are meant to dedicate our sexuality to Him, whether that means saving it for marriage or through living in chastity just like Paul the Apostle.
Confession to another believer is a doctrine I believe in, not to a priest who gives penance and declares my sin forgiven. Only God can forgive sin. Only God knows the heart. And the Catholic requirements to be a priest that include celibacy is an issue for me. I think allowing those to marry who chose to is important. Paul says if you can remain single, it’s better to do so because you can focus all your energy on the church, but if you will burn with lust, marry. I don’t think the church should mandate celibacy for anyone who is willing to enter into a Biblical marriage.
The priest declares your sin to be forgiven by the grace of God, not by his own doing. That’s an authority that was given by Christ to the Apostles in John 20:23 (RSV),
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
As far as the (Roman) Catholic requirements to be a priest are concerned, I think you’ve already explained it well yourself. The reason for priestly celibacy is to focus more energy on the church. But the vetting process before a vow of celibacy is usually quite thorough. If the person is prone to burn in passion, they would be better off marrying and/or becoming a priest in the Byzantine rite if the priesthood is their calling.
It’s a strange loophole between sub-traditions of Catholicism, but it only shows that the Roman rite isn’t the summary of what the Catholic Church is. It just happens to be the larger and more well-known part of it because our authoritative office happens to be in Rome. As far as penance is concerned, another way to word it is an act of repentance. Whenever we give our lives to Christ, we confess that we are sinners and we turn to God. Penance is not ‘earning’ forgiveness, but the act of avoiding sin and turning to God through prayer, devotion, good deeds, etc.
The Roman Catholic Church is the main Catholic Church in the world and it is the one that I am most familiar with. I still don’t believe in praying memorized prayers as an act of repentance. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” Matthew 6:7 KJV
Well, are the angels in heaven doing vain repetition when they sing to the Lord in heaven, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty?”I’ve written about that as well. Even certain Protestant traditions like Lutherans and Anglicans have memorized ‘scripted’ prayers.
PROTESTANT MODERATOR #2: So do Methodists. I’m Methodist.
I don’t really have time to debate you. Some of your points have merit and some do not. Using the Psalms which are poetry or songs to support repetition in prayer is like comparing apples to oranges. Songs are by nature repetitive. Psalms are not literal proscriptions. Praying from the heart as led by the Holy Spirit is much better than repeating words over and over again. Even Jesus didn’t always pray the Lord’s Prayer. He sometimes prayed differently. So do we judge that he was telling us to pray these exact words only or was he giving an example?
CATHOLIC COMMENTER #1: If memorized prayers are a problem, then Jesus made a mistake of giving us the formalized prayer of the “Our Father.” Memorizing prayers is like memorizing powerful songs: they give us the words and communicate for us when we feel at a loss. They are a treasure of the heart for humanity to praise God.
Hey, debating is what I do. It helps me learn more and gives me stuff to think and write about. But just know that mere disagreement does not mean that I’m judging your relationship with God. I think you’d be surprised to know how biblical the roots of Catholic traditions and practices really are.
CATHOLIC COMMENTER #2: I’ll just have to chime in here and say that I think your comment of saying which type of prayer is “better” is HIGHLY subjective. Maybe it is better for YOU but please don’t assume that you know what is better for everyone. Also- as a devoted Catholic, I believe you are a bit misinformed..I don’t know any Catholic that ONLY prays scripted prayers. So, yes, just as you said sometimes Jesus prayed differently and that’s exactly what we do as well…sometimes scripted, sometimes off the cuff. We pray as Jesus taught us!
I can appreciate that. I do think though that the prescription against repetitious prayers was towards people showing off their piety in church which seems to lead away from that being what Jesus wants for us as a means of repentance. I will say that even if I believe it’s not biblical that doesn’t mean people can’t be confessing and repenting meaningfully while doing it. I don’t know if that is clear but what I mean is that I think you can be Catholic and be saved and be a faithful follower of Christ, but that the church has traditions that may inhibit some from finding a personal relationship with Christ through using memorized prayers and not any independent prayers, but think that they are saved. There has to be the intervention of the Holy Spirit in anyone’s confession and repentance and I think repetition of memorized prayers may help people who are not truly repentant to exhibit the outward signs and be falsely secure in a salvation they equate with works.
That’s not how the treasury of prayers works, though. Historically, the Church and Christians do not use robotic prayers to substitute the heart reaching for heaven. Let’s remember, that those prayers had to come from somewhere, originally. They are like family traditions, called upon because they are dependable. For the Church, much is both/and. We have battle-tested prayers we’ve inherited, but also encouraged to cry out to the Father from our heart.
I think both are necessary, but object to being instructed to pray a certain number of this prayer or that to demonstrate true repentance. If one is truly repentant, wouldn’t we seek ways to demonstrate it to God without being given a list of prayers to pray. I agree confession and prayer are integral, just disagree with how they are implemented in the RCC.
Well, perhaps if we consider the context. It’s helpful to understand that the official treasury of prayers are ones which subsist in teaching doctrine and truth. The reciting of these prayers brings those teachings about God to mind, help us remember his love, and the way he calls us to live. By saying these prayers, we are remembering that which we abandoned which led to sin. The reciting of the prayer doesn’t magically cast anything away, it simply disciplines our mind and helps us with that metanoia. From there, by grace, we can more easily walk toward the “narrow gate.” This practice, is apostolic and ancient.
I don’t reject the prayers themselves necessarily- excluding Hail Mary which I don’t think we need to discuss today. But that repentance should be an outpouring of organic faith and some people may not be searching their hearts during such repetition and may not know they have missed the Gospel because they are following the outward trappings, but that is also true of some Protestant traditions as well. I honestly believe our churches are not what God wanted at all. Not many of our modern churches look like the Acts community and that is where I think we need to be.
(To PROTESTANT MODERATOR #1) I can definitely sympathize with that. Even here in North American, I find cultural Catholicism has veered away from what the Early Church had been. There’s a partisan divide between ‘modernist’ and ‘traditional’ Catholics that’s akin to the current political divide going on in the United States. And nowadays, unity among Christians (even to agree to disagree) is more crucial now than it’s ever been.
Ah, okay, the confusion is now becoming clear. Repentance happens when the sinner is contrite and sorry for their sin. If the sin is mortal, which kills the life of grace and separates us from God’s friendship and the Church, we do as Christ and his Church prescribes: take your confession to the priest, who is authorized by Christ (referenced earlier) to absolve the sin in the name of the Trinity. From there, a penance may be given as a way to make reparation or remind us of God’s love. We have to remember Christ’s promise, that while the Church he founded may be full of sinners, the gates of hell cannot prevail. The Church he founded 2,000 years ago still exists, and will always exist, down to the last believer at the end of time.
PROTESTANT MODERATOR #2: So I’m chiming in about prayers. We too pray scripted prayers sometimes and others on the fly. As a Methodist here’s what we believe… (Lists APOSTLES CREED, NICENE CREED)… We also pray the Lord’s Prayer which is scripted each week.
CATHOLIC COMMENTER #2:Indeed! And that Creed, which is almost universally (catholic) believed, is a product of a tradition of the Church.
CATHOLIC COMMENTER #1:(In response to my article)Great article and balanced treatment of the subject. The topics of “call no man father” and the reality of the priesthood are fairly recent phenomena in the history of the Church’s teaching of the Faith, and that is only because there was little to no question of or objection to it for the first 1500 years Holy Church’s existence. The first part we should consider is that the Deposit of Faith is from both Scripture and Tradition (the teaching application and history). As Mr. Albert mentioned, priestly celibacy is a discipline of the Church based upon Jesus’ statements in Matthew 9:12, and the Apostolic precedent of perpetual continence. As for confessing sins, the penitent confesses sins to the priest who speaks the words of absolution in the name of the Trinity, not on their own authority. It is the same as a deputized officer of the law dispensing a sentence or ruling. No Catholic over the last 2,000 years would rightly say otherwise. This is why Jesus said to the Apostles (not the others), “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained (John 20:23).” Jesus said this to them immediately after breathing upon them, conferring his own power and authority by the Holy Spirit. The priest does this because Christ said so. Remember that there is a difference between the “royal priesthood” of believers which Christ confers upon us as his Body, and the sacerdotal (sacrificial) priesthood conferred upon those who offer his one and only sacrifice (the Mass/Eucharist). Again, none of this is invented and the sheer enormity of evidence for the continuity of practice from both Scripture and the early writings of the Church confirm this time and again, leading to the coming home of countless souls to the Church Jesus founded. History and Scripture speak for themselves. When you read the early Church Fathers as they describe the Church, you see everything Catholics do today–not in artificial imitation, but as the same continuity it always was and will be. We must remember, as St. John Henry Newman said, that “They [the early Church Fathers] are witnesses of an existing state of things, and their treatises are, as it were, histories–teaching us, in the first instance, matters of fact, not opinion.” May the Holy Spirit continue to enlighten our hearts and open our minds to the truth of Christ’s Church, who always and everywhere gives praise, glory, and worship to the Father. Amen.
(To CATHOLIC COMMENTER #1) Where do you see in the scripture that tradition should be equal to scripture? Matthew 15:6 is pretty damning of the use of human tradition above the heart of God’s scripture.
CATHOLIC COMMENTER #1:The irony there is that Scripture as you know it, IS Tradition. When the New Testament authors wrote their gospels and letters, the Scripture they referenced was the Old Testament, specifically the Septuagint. The Apostolic writings were collected, by the Church, who taught the Faith by tradition, and then authorized the canon you and I inherited. If Scripture then was the sole rule of faith, then how did the Church survive without the New Testament for nearly 300 years? St. Paul tells us to “hold fast to the traditions he taught” (2 Thess 2:15), and informs St. Timothy that the Church is the “pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15). What’s interesting is that Jesus never asks us to add to the Tanakh with the New Testament, and yet the Church created one anyway. Instead, he said to go out and “make disciples” and we teach with Tradition. Does that mean we are disobeying Christ by doing something (canonized the New Testament) he never requested? Therefore, by accepting the New Testament, you are accepting it by the authority of the Church which set it up as Scripture, not Jesus. Ipso facto, you already accept Church authority, which was given by Christ to “bind and loose.”
I disagree with some of your conclusions and practices, but agree that we need to appeal to Christ for forgiveness in prayer and seek to follow God’s word in all that we do.
Hey, I’m just “holding fast to the traditions” handed on to me by Christ’s Church. And yes, contrition before the King of Kings is where all conversion and hope begins. May God bless you, keep you, and bring you and yours to everlasting life.
As am I and bless you too. We can disagree with what we think the Bible meant and still agree on the main issues of salvation. The rest is details.