Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Can Catholics and Evangelicals be friends?

There's a question I'd like to pose: can the Catholic and Evangelical faithful meet on terms of spiritual friendship?  I am tending to doubt that they can.
I've been thinking about this since reading an article on the website of the Christian News Network about the death of His Honour, Mr Justice Scalia.  With perhaps more bitterness than usual, I observed that -
What makes this amusing to a papist like me is watching "biblical Christians" fondness for Scalia override their near-pathological hatred of Roman Catholics.
Another commenter responded -
Seriously? I know lots of biblical Christians, I don't know any who have a "near-pathological hatred of Roman Catholics." It's 2016, evangelicals and RCs unite on many issues, such as being pro-life. You may encounter a few crackpots on the internet spewing their hate at Catholics, but I assure you they do not represent the main stream of evangelicalism. Chuck Colson, an evangelical, and Richard John Neuhaus, an RC priest, formed a close bond and worked to build up amity between the two groups.
I replied (fairly cynically) -
That might be so, Dan, but I'm afraid I haven't met many of them. Reading stories and comments on even more-or-less mainstream sites like this one, a Catholic will be told that they are not a Christian, that the Pope is the Antichrist (a tired allegation, having been made against every pope since Leo X), that the Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon, that we're idolators, or closet followers of Baal, and a great deal more besides. Attempts to explain Catholic practice get the accusation of being "seducers with fine-sounding words and smiles" and "wordsmithing". You will understand why we might conclude that we're viewed as the enemy.
Thinking about it later, I went to a single story about on that same website about (as the site describes him) "Roman Catholic leader Jorge Bergoglio, also known as Pope Francis" and found the following gems -
"If [Roman Catholics] were Christians, they would heed the Scriptures that say don’t yoke together with unbelievers,”
"The Roman Catholic church is the harlot from revelations"
I have and can support sola fide and I have not lied about your falsely called holy father, your false prophet pope. Don't worry about my bearing false witness, worry that you are trying to earn your salvation, according to the false Gospel of the Roman Catholic Church"
"you have been blinded by the deceiving spirits of the Roman Catholic Church, embracing a false Gospel of salvation and thinking yourself saved"
"I am simply not interested in Catholic propaganda, as I believe it is a false Church and the seat of the False Prophet and do not want to expose myself to their deceptions that are leading souls away from Christ."
"The whole concept of the papacy is satanic and ungodly."
Raffael 042.jpg
Pope Leo X - pontiff at the commencement of the Reformation
Image from here
I thought it might be interesting to flip the table, and so I looked at the responses to stories on Catholic news sources about Pope Francis' overtures to evangelicals.  I think it's fair to say that the responses were positive, if somewhat jaded.  By way of example -
  • From here: "The January video of the pope's message regarding other religions leads me to believe that Francis is measuring religious differences with a micrometer, as he cannot see much difference."
  • From here: "The coming together of the disparate parts - Protestantism which does not recognize even priesthood and the sacrifice of the Mass, together with the true Church established by Christ may be a kind of earthly "unity" on some level, but is is not the oneness that Jesus prayed for."
  • And from here: "I welcome Pope Francis' efforts to reach out to those who follow Jesus,  whatever outward "label" they may wear.  It is to his credit that he has done so,  in my humble opinion." and "Disunity is the most serious "Communal" sin. The Christian community should not allow this sin to flourish. I am happy the versatile Pope is leading the way to Christian unity."
The credibility of the Christian message would be much greater if Christians could overcome their divisions and the Church could realize “the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her children who, though joined to her by baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her”.
I wonder how this might ever occur when we start from a base of lowered expectations on one side and open hostility on the other.

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