• Our Blogger

    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    Lavell on Ask a Priest
    Kelly on Ask a Priest
    Jeff on Ask a Priest
    Nick on Ask a Priest
    Jeff on Ask a Priest

Can Catholics Kill Protestants? And Other Fables

There are some charges beyond ridiculous. One of these is that the Canon Law of the Catholic Church advocates the killing of Protestants. Again, the anti-Catholic loves sensationalism and scare tactics. It is not unlike the BIG LIE tactics of the WWII Nazi propaganda machine. The Church is not only blamed for the Dark Ages and the Inquisition but probably for everything from bad breath to smelly feet. Instead of pictured as a loving mother, the anti-Catholic calls the Church of Rome a “monster,” “the beast” or “the harlot.” He cannot tolerate her authority or the possibility that there is a claim to truth beyond his control. Such a belligerent stance often puts the anti-Catholic bigot in the embarrassing position of castigating even those policies and persons with whom he would have an affinity, if he truly loves the Lord. Thus, he takes public positions against pro-life endeavors which he probably favors all because they originate with the Catholic Church. He also suggests that the likes of Mother Teresa are burning in hell because they did not espouse fundamentalist propositions; indeed, Mother Teresa closely associated the Eucharist with her charity endeavors. He becomes the very thing he says he hates about the Catholic Church, intolerant and dishonest.

EXCOMMUNICATION – Turning his attention to this subject, the anti-Catholic denies the Church any authority to discipline her membership. However, he ignores the fact that many Protestant communities shun and expel those who do not follow the party line. In ancient days banishment was preferred to taking the life of an unbeliever. Communion in the Catholic Church implies uniformity in worship and belief. If such a unity is imperiled by heresy and/or irregular worship, the Church has the obligation to protect the integrity of the faith. One critic compared this policy to the work of Hitler or the Red Scare. However, there is no comparison. The substance of what is being protected is the truth, not egregious deceits as in totalitarianism. Further, one may still dissent, but one may not do so upon a serious matter and pretend to be a good Catholic Christian. The two matters which bring automatic excommunication are harming the person of the Pope and deliberately procuring an abortion. Would the anti-Catholic argue contrarily for violence or for excusing the murder of babies? I hope not.

PROSCRIPTION FROM OFFICES – This only pertains to ecclesiastical offices these days as most governments in the West are secular. Should a person continue as a pastor of souls if he is leading them into error or causing scandal by his conduct? I think not. In ancient days, this concern was tied up with the tension with kings over authority and interference in Church matters. While this point is now more historical than current, the Pope has insisted that Catholic priests and male and female religious not hold political positions in civil governments. Would the anti-Catholic who feels this infringes upon private rights really want a Catholic clergyman as his Senator or President? I doubt it. He makes a lot of noise for nothing!

CONFISCATION OF GOODS – This notion is quite archaic and no longer applies except in cases where goods belonging to the Church have been illicitly procured. Would the anti-Catholic want a disgruntled pastor to sell his church from under him or leave it to children with no interest in religion? No. It was the same issue with the Catholic faith. The temporal goods of the Church belong to the People of God. I would readily compare the few hundred dollars a month most of our priests get to the high salaries of many evangelical and fundamentalist ministers any day! Who is it who is really getting rich on religion? On top of this most priests have to maintain their own car, pay insurance, and pay the same taxes as all the rest of us. Religious clergy even take a vow of poverty. Mother Teresa’s sisters only possess two habits each and a bucket to wash them in. Millions upon millions go to charity and the Vatican often suffers a short-fall in funds. Where is this rich Vatican government that anti-Catholics shout about? Should the Church sell off her holdings of art to private collectors and deprive the world of what she safeguards for all humanity? The argument of the anti-Catholic bigot on this score is a tumbling house of cards.

EXECUTION – Anti-Catholics play this tune for all they can get out of it. Again, nations, Protestant, Catholic, Moslem, and Secular have often used religion to their own ends. The complicity of certain ones in the membership (or in leadership) is not grounds for damning the entire Church fellowship. In ancient times, the people themselves would often drag out and lynch heretics. The Church encouraged the rule of law to bring order and justice to the situation. Oftentimes confiscation of property and banishment was the punishment. However, over time the death penalty did encroach upon the scene. Further, until recent times, the Papacy actually retained a substantial territory, the Papal States. Consumed by the Italian unification movement, all that remains is the small Vatican City. The civil legislation of the old Papal States must be reckoned on the same level as other nations. Countries in the past and in the present have sometimes allowed the death penalty for threats to society. Records indicate that such executions in papal lands dealt with capital crimes like murder. Today, the Church has discerned a development in doctrine that would rescind this right of the state to take life since it adds to the current culture of death. Incarceration and rehabilitation are preferred avenues for criminals. However, this is again in reference to what we would all discern to be crimes against society. The irony here is that while many fundamentalists side with Catholics against abortion, they are frequently strong advocates of capital punishment in our own nation. This brings us back to the ludicrous assertion that Catholics are given liberty to kill Protestants. It just is not so. Alongside fundamentalists who want free access to the people inside the old Soviet Union, the Catholic Church has joined her voice in defending the sanctity of conscience and religious liberty as a constitutive right of the human person.

Development along these lines does not impinge upon the charism of infallibility regarding faith and morals given the Church. While the Church is holy because of the abiding presence of Christ, her members are always sinners in need of their redeemer, Christ. Regarding matters of science and practical matters of government, the Church has had to feel her way through time just like other organizations. The Church may be infallible, but she is not always impeccable. Anti-Catholics often fail to make this distinction.

One anti-Catholic had to go all the way to Gratian’s Decretals of the 12th century (one of the earliest attempts to codify the laws of Christendom) in order to discredit the Catholic Church. His own denomination did not yet exist; indeed, the Protestant Reformation had yet to happen. Nevertheless, he belittles the Church for oppressing his compatriots during that time.

Utterly desperate to show that Catholics can kill Protestants with impunity, one anti-Catholic bigot cites the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre. The king’s sister, Margaret of Valois, married an important Protestant leader, Henry of Navarre. Her mother and her family secretly arranged for his assassination. When it failed, they convinced the king that there would be a Huguenot reprisal. They decided to strike first but the government could not retain the violence. Religious war broke out and upon his conversion to Catholicism, Henry of Navarre became king, himself. Unfortunately, another religious war would follow. The anti-Catholic bigot gives few of the facts and condemns the whole Catholic Church for what was a French civil war.

The typical bigoted anti-Catholic’s views which I have largely reviewed here always end with a terrible bluntness. He says that unless one leaves the Catholic Church, one must be damned to hell. He tells the Catholic to run, but only gives him a religion which judges itself by its hate of Catholicism. That is no choice. The Catholic should stay home and explore his own spiritual roots. Our history may have some blemishes, but it also contains many jewels. It is the Church of the saints and the family of God established by Jesus.

Faith & Works

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

The Catholic Church wrongly teaches that we can be saved by works and sacraments. Penance and rosaries are of no avail. We can gain no merits by crying to heaven, lengthy prayers, periods of fasting, required church attendance, pilgrimages, the monastic life, or the sacraments. Works are only the fruit of faith. The believer does not work for salvation; it is precisely because he is already saved that he does good works. If he remains in his sins, then there has been no change, and his faith is a pretense.

Romans 3:28: For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.

Galatians 2:16: . . . yet who know that a man is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law shall no one be justified.

CATHOLIC TRUTH

Anti-Catholics often purposely quote verses while leaving out adjacent words which might nuance matters more in the favor of Catholicism. Take for example the citation from Romans, we read in Romans 3:31: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” It would seem that Hebrew customs and traditions (including the works of the law and the commandments) could very well be an element in their newfound faith in Jesus. The dichotomy is between those who place works over faith, as if the latter is inconsequential. Faith and works are as two sides of a single coin. However, it should be mentioned that the law mentioned here is particularly the Jewish Law; an exact parallel cannot be drawn by works as they emerge under the New Covenant of Christ. Catholics understand works as a participation in Christ’s meritorious or saving activity. Christ lives in the believer through grace and anything the Lord does in us belongs essentially to him. All saving merit belongs to Christ, yes; but “greater is he who lives in me than he who lives in the world.” Our faith in Christ is necessarily realized and actualized, not only manifested, in the life of charity and obedience. It is not simply a stagnant profession of faith in response to the Word.

The core of his contention is that works possess no saving merit. The Catholic would agree, if such works were separated from our faith in Christ. The Scriptures render a view quite different from what the critic of Catholicism contends:

Matthew 6:4: [Giving alms] “. . . so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6: [Prayer] “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:18: [Fasting] “. . . that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your father who is in secret; and your father who sees in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 16:27: [Deeds] “For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.”

Romans 2:6-10: [Works done] For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.

1 Peter 1:17: [Works done] And if you invoke as Father him who judges each one impartially according to his deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile.

2 Timothy 4:8: [Righteous life] “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”

While Catholics follow a contextual approach, we can still quote verses back to those who use Scripture proof texts in a fundamentalist manner. Here are two of my favorites:

All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified (Romans 2:12-13).

You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone (James 2:24).

This second citation so troubled Martin Luther that he extracted the entire book of James from his bible! Later Protestants restored it while ignoring its content.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.

Good Works

James 2:22-26: You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness”; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven.”

Mark 16:16: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”

Both faith and good works are necessary for salvation. This is the witness of Scripture. Martin Luther was so possessed by his “faith alone” theory that he even forcibly inserted the word “alone” into his version of the Bible. When told about his error, he responded that he would not remove it even if an angel from heaven were to tell him to do so. Catholics rightly contend that faith must be actualized with charity. We profess and make real our faith, not only with an assent of the mind and our words, but with our heart and our actions. Christ is only “our personal Lord and Savior” if we exercise necessary faith and good works. The incarnation of Christ, first into human flesh and now into our souls by grace, allows him to perpetuate his ministry through our lives. Good works have merit precisely because the Lord living in us ultimately performs them. Since faith and good works are required, it becomes an imperative that we reject the view of Luther. It does make a difference what we believe. The growing consensus on this issue between modern day Lutherans and Catholics is evidence of a positive development in mainline Protestantism as well as a reconciliatory stance with Catholicism.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.