Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

"Separated Churches -Instruments of Salvation"

The blogosphere has exploded regarding this recent statement made by the Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith. (I am late to the blog party on this one. PD and I were out tonight giving our reversion testimony to the Bethlehem Serra Club. More on that later) There is no new news here but simply a re-iteration of Catholic teaching. What is sad is that some non-Catholic's are taking offense to this statement (Thanks CNN for the spin) when it was actually intended as correction and instruction for Catholics whose theology has grown fuzzy over the past 40 years since V2. Catholic theologians have been misinterpreting Vatican 2 for years and the Vatican is attempting to clear up the fuzziness.

"Given the universality of Catholic doctrine on the Church, the Congregation wishes to respond to these questions by clarifying the authentic meaning of some ecclesiological expressions used by the magisterium which are open to misunderstanding in the theological debate."

"This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him"[7].

The early Christians identified the Church Jesus started by 4 marks. It was one, holy, catholic and apostolic. Why did the early creeds bother to mention these four marks if there was no question or controversy regarding how to identify the Church Jesus started? At the time of the creeds, there were many sects and heretical cults springing up claiming to be the Church of Christ (referred to as *The Catholic Church*, since 105 AD) So how did one know the one true Church from another? It had to be one in doctrine and faith, it had to be holy because it was the bride of Christ. It had to be universal. Any where in the world when you walked in, the teaching and beliefs had to be identical. Finally, if it was the Church that Jesus started, it had to show that it was in direct historical succession from the apostles. The Creed has always held the standard for what constitutes the true Church. (The Nicean Creed was written before the New Testament was officially canonized, compiled, etc available or circulated)

So is Rome saying that non-Catholic churches are counterfeit or illegitimate? Absolutely Not!

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.[9] Nevertheless, the word "subsists" can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the "one" Church); and this "one" Church subsists in the Catholic Church.

...there are "numerous elements of sanctification and of truth" which are found outside her structure, but which "as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity"[11].

"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church"[12].

Finally, Why do the texts of the Council and those of the Magisterium since the Council not use the title of "Church" with regard to those Christian Communities born out of the Reformation of the sixteenth century?

Response: According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery[19] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense[20].

My take on this last statement is that the Church uses the creedal template of apostolic succession for making this determination. These communities can't have the Eucharist because the ability to confect it has always been based on the unbroken apostolic succession, which they don't have. I hope that it can be seen that these statements are not made in a spirit of triumphalism or in a condescending fashion.

My concluding "spin" on all of this : The Church is reiterating their belief for 2000 years that Jesus truly intended us to all be one Church in unity of belief, doctrine and praxis. They say that the creedal definition of "Church" is found in the 4 marks.
The Church acknowledges, that despite the fact that our separated brethren do not share these 4 marks, "they are not deprived of significance or importance in the mystery of salvation."

Jesus, may we all be one as you and the Father are one.

We pray in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen


Anonymous Julie said...

There is a great deal of misinformation floating around on this, helped along, of course, by the MSM. You have explained it very, very well. Thank you.

July 11, 2007 9:03 AM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Nice explanation.

July 11, 2007 11:04 AM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

Great post, thanks!!

July 11, 2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger The Spirit's Vehicle said...

It seems that the misinformed message always seems to get out and with you and others the true message can be heard. Thank you. Today, many priests have family members who are not practicing Catholicism or are members of other faiths. How heavy the burden for these priests if salvation for their relatives would not be at least possible.

July 11, 2007 2:23 PM  
Blogger Peter Sean Bradley said...

I am perplexed by the reaction of certain Protestants. Kevin Johnson at Reformed Catholicism and Michael Spencer at Boar Head's Tavern treated this measured reaffirmation of the Catholic position as a kind of personal affront.

I am puzzled. Don't they believe that they belong church that happens to be "truer" than the alternatives? If they didn't, wouldn't they go join a "truer" church. Further, can there be two churches that equally the "truest"? It seems that if they were equally the truest, they would be a single church - i.e, the one true church - because (a) they'd have no disagreements and (b) Christ viewed division as a scandal.

I just finished speaking with one of my Protestant law partners and his explanation is that Protestants just don't think that way; they view going to a church as a matter of subjective preference like preferring NASCAR to football.

Perhaps you have a take on this.

July 11, 2007 4:46 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks folks for the kind comments.

Yes the blogospheric reaction is a bit perplexing.
Pete makes a good point in saying that people of course will join the church they view as the truest, compared to all others, why else would they go? How can all different denominations be true? One Church will inevitably end up being truer than all others. By odds alone, it has to be. By the same logic, one church sadly somewhere in the world is the most untrue church!

Catholics have always made the claim that their apostolic succession entitles them to the claim that this is the True Church in continuity with the early apostles. This is not new. The claim is based on the creed and historicity and the Catholic belief in the Petrine doctrines. It is not based on pride and a spirit of triumphalism nor should it be waved as a flag as such. The document was meant for Catholics and not the mainstream media!
This recent document should make Catholics take stock of their Church and realize what we believe about the Church. If you are Catholic, it won't do to just believe you are just another denomination. The Church asks as Catholics, we accept and believe that this is the Church Christ started and is the normative way in which we were meant to grow our relationship with Christ(via the sacraments of this Church.)
If more Catholics understood and believed the Petrine claims and the one, holy, catholic and apostolic template for what constitutes the true Church, there would be less folks leaving when the new church up the street offers live music, fresh brewed coffee and "easy to believology."(I am speaking to myself in this last comment)
This statement by the CDF is encouraging to me and other convert/reverts because it reaffirms the fact that I left by 30 years of evangelicalism for what I believe is the True Church. Why would I risk loss of friends, family, music career opportunities etc for just another denomination? It just wouldn't make sense. Like Flannery O'Connor said : "If it's just a piece of bread, then the hell with it."

Finally. just to clarify Peter, many Protestants do take their church choice very seriously in that much prayer and time is spent trying to find a fellowship they are comfortable with. Often the church becomes a focal point of their family, social and spiritual lives.

Thanks for the great post. BTW are you a malpractice lawyer? :)

July 11, 2007 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone else consider it interesting that despite the fact that many people think Catholics are a huge cult and not even Christian, that a statement such as this, makes so many people get their panties in a bunch?
Why not just ignore it and not give them any press? It's just that old $#@% of babylon rattling its saber again. Who cares?

July 11, 2007 8:47 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Two words: Unum Sanctum

There's a good easy to read explanation of Unum Sanctum here:

July 11, 2007 9:30 PM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Two words: Unum Sanctum

July 11, 2007 9:31 PM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks Timothy.
I have read that before and it is excellent. Here's the last paragraph, it is by evangelical convert Mark Shea:

"Catholics do not say, and never have said, that they are the sole possessors of revelation. Indeed, the Church does not “possess” revelation at all. Revelation possesses her; and that revelation, who is Christ, has, she teaches, committed Himself fully to her. “God,” said the great Protestant writer George MacDonald, “is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.” On the one hand, God is delighted when the most miserable sinner takes the smallest serious step toward the love of God and neighbor. On the other hand, He will not be completely happy until every last person He came to save is completely perfected in the image of Christ and overflowing with perfect love for God and neighbor. This same pattern is supremely evident in the Catholic Church’s understanding of her relationship with her members, whether in full or very imperfect communion. For the Church is happy to recognize even the smallest commonalities she may share, not only with other Christians, but even with non-Christian religious traditions and the great philosophical traditions of paganism. The Church can even find things to affirm in virtuous atheists. But at the same time, the Church is acutely aware that there is a real difference between imperfect and perfect unity and so she, too—easy to please, but hard to satisfy—labors toward that day when all the members of the Body of Christ will be perfected in faith, hope, and love.

Till that day, we know where the Church is; we do not know where she is not."

July 11, 2007 9:40 PM  
Blogger St. Jimbob of the Apokalypse said...

Catholic doctrine is too complicated for MSM headlines, much less Jack Chick Tract theologians. The reaction of crypto-protestants WITHIN the Church will be interesting as well. I'm sure that Chittister/Gumbleton/O'Brien dissidents will be thrilled..

July 11, 2007 11:10 PM  
Blogger tara said...

If all Catholics interceed for our separated brethren, God could bring them all home--all one "in unity of belief, doctrine and praxis." Somebody prayed me home--thank you.

July 11, 2007 11:22 PM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

After reading some of the Protestant blogs, it's clear that some find this statement objectionable:

These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery[19] cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called "Churches" in the proper sense[20].

I would ask my Protestant friends, "Why should that statement bother me?" It is the nature of Protestantism to be opposed to a great deal of Catholic dogma, is it not? The fact that the RCC does not recognise Protestant ordination or churches as "Churches in the proper sense" should have no bearing whatsoever on their own doctrine and calling from Christ. After all, most Protestant denominations do not recognise the RCC as a "Church in the proper sense," either. It's nothing new, as far as I can tell, unless some Protestants consider the reiteration of the statement as some kind of blow to Catholic/Protestant relations, a step "backward." I have read that some do consider it that. In that case, I would encourage them to read what the sedevacantists have to say about Protestants. After reading that, they'll run to the Pope!

July 12, 2007 1:40 AM  
Blogger White Stone Name Seeker said...

This seems to go straight to the heart of 'invincible ignorance'. It's the business where someone 'says' they are seeking the truth and so they have chosen a church community where they reckon they have found it-but when they are shown some things that don't fir they scream and shout about it. This is not about seeking truth, but about the comfortable feeling of being right (even you aint).
I'm not trying to be hard-but I've seen this so often. It's sad.

July 12, 2007 4:43 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

Thanks for that post. As a Protestant, you understand Catholic doctrine better than many Catholics out there who are blogging about how embarrassed they are that the pope said this. I might post your thoughts as a separate post if u dont mind.

July 12, 2007 8:32 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

I remember when I was looking for a church in my past life as an evangelical, I would look to see if I could "sense the presence of God" there, where the music was uplifting and the
doctrines were in agreement with what I was believing at the time. I didn't know or consider the possibility that there could or would be one true Church. I assumed there was no one Church, and therefore, Truth became less of a focus and more subjective factors became the criteria for deciding on a church to fellowship with.
It was sad, had I known what the Church said about itself, it may have prompted some criticism at first but then some real questions,
and finally I would have to have concluded, this Catholic Church is totally off the rails , or its true.

July 12, 2007 8:39 AM  
Blogger Tiber Jumper said...

st Jim:
the beauty of this recent statement is that it affirms for all Catholics where they stand in relation to the Church. Those who wish to cleave to the ancient Barc of Peter will be comforted, those who have always been distrusting,(dissidents) will be further infuriated and looking for the exits. There is a genius in the Pope's timing of this statement that we have yet to fully understand the implications of.

July 12, 2007 8:42 AM  
Blogger Joyful Catholics said...

I had one friend tell me that she's encouraging her son-in-law, a lapsed, and poorly catechised Catholic, (I assume since he's not been practicing faithfully for some years) to go back to the CC if he can find one that is "alive." But if it's not "alive" (they went to Holy Cross one time not long ago and she told me it was "dead.") Excuse me, but with Jesus in the tabernacle, no Catholic Church is ever completely and entirely dead. The Way the Truth and the LIFE is there, even if the people aren't "lively." She said she's encouraging him to go where there is "spirit and heart." Hmm, spirit and heart?

We're to worship God in Spirit and TRUTH, (or so I read in the bible) I KNOW what she means,as I was once of that mindset and held evangelical paradigm.

I thought the cheerful greetings and hugs were nice and all that, but the music with a band was what I was "into" more than the colloquial greeters noticing ME as I strolled into church. That's never been the big "pull" for me...I prefer anonymity to be honest, but not so much now as before.

I don't "NEED" a hug to welcome me, because when I open the door to the sanctuary and I smell incense or see the candles lit, and see the golden or silver plated tabernacle and I dip my right hand in that bubbling pool...the WHO I know is THERE waiting for me is greeting me, in Spirit and in TRUTH. I'll encounter CHRIST, all the rest, as they say, is just details. Fluff. Icing on the proverbial cake. Nice as a hug is, it's NOT why I go to Mass. We do know more people now and we do see familiar faces which to greet with a cheerful "hi" but that's not why I am Catholic. Perhaps as Catholics we need to be perhaps more "welcoming" but you know what? It goes BOTH ways!

When we returned to the CC Rich and I kept going to Donut Sundays and we'd introduce ourselves and sit with new people every week thru the Fall/Winter months. (my preference is that they'd not stop for the Summer! I like donuts) So, maybe we'd not see those folks again for weeks and weeks, or maybe never, but the thing is WE INTRODUCED ourselves as NEW to the Parish and found we were then greeted with MUCH HOSPITALITY and warmth and even a hug or two!

Catholic culture is NOT the same as Evangelical culture and frankly I'm OKAY with it being that way. We do have a lot to learn from eachother, but for my wellbeing it isn't the hugs, the greetings, the homily, the music, the "this" or "that" ...It's the EUCHARIST - THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT OF OUR FAITH...that brings about unity and healing and I pray that my friend's dear son-in-law will come back HOME TO ROME and go to confession and then receive the Blessed Sacrament and be healed of all spiritual and maybe physical problems.

Please pray for his son, Jack, too, who's battling a immune disease he's had for 10 years, since he was 2. I think this suffering his son has so valiantly endured, like a trooper, can "bring out" the Catholic in Tony,...and hopefully, bring his entire family back Home to the Catholic Church where the fullness of TRUTH IS. I pray for JOHN 17 to become a reality for us all. Amen.

sancta sancti!

July 12, 2007 7:47 PM  
Blogger Peter Sean Bradley said...


Thanks for the response.

I am a California business litigation/plaintiff's employment attorney.

One of my significant areas of practice happens to involve representing dissident Protestant local churches against their unhinged liberal denominations when they get fed up and want to leave with their property. My partner and I were responsible for a published California Court of Appeals decision that proveded a recipe for Methodist churches to leave their decaying denomination. We also represent Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Reformed churches.

Hence, my professional work has a religious angle.

July 13, 2007 5:23 PM  
Blogger Pilgrimsarbour said...

Peter Sean Bradley said...

I just finished speaking with one of my Protestant law partners and his explanation is that Protestants just don't think that way; they view going to a church as a matter of subjective preference like preferring NASCAR to football.

I'm afraid that Mr. Bradley is correct. It is true much of the time, although my experience has been that it happens significantly less in the confessional (Reformed) churches.

July 13, 2007 11:18 PM  

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