A Pope to appeal to Protestants?

Well maybe not in Northern Ireland, but the Weekly Standard has a fascinating US view of the evangelical mission that John Paul II set for himself:

The truth is evangelicals could admire the Pope without wanting to convert to Catholicism. Sure, important differences remained between Protestants and Catholics, but John Paul II made them seem small. He was pro-life, pro-family, anti-totalitarian, and quite a lot more that conservative evangelicals identified with. Richard Land, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, once told a Catholic friend that Pope John Paul II was a “Pope who really knows how to pope.” I suspect what Land meant in using “pope” as a verb was that John Paul was bold and unswerving in proclaiming salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. He did this all over the world, despite declining health and personal risk.

  • Alan McDonald

    The key sentence in this piece is:
    During John Paul’s 27 years as Pope, evangelical Protestants and conservative Catholics grew closer together in America’s culture wars.

    As an American, I have observed this political coalition form at the local as well as the national level. Politics really does make strange bedfellows.

  • Ringo

    Wasn’t that one of the problems with John Kerry – not that he was Catholic, but rather that he wasn’t Catholic enough?

  • Rethinking Unionism

    There is nothing strange about an alliance of catholics and evangelical protestants In terms of what Vatican 2 descrbed as the “hierarchy of truths” there was agreement on most of the main essentials of orthodoxy.

    The irony is that there is today a much more scary secular fundamentalism which will not brook opposition is busy rewriting laws to ensure their own orthodoxy remains unchallenged. The public square must have room in any democracy for Christians to make their case. The ambushing of the putative Italian Commissioner for Human Rights in the new European Commission is a case in point. He espoused views which would have been regarded as entirley reasonable 15 years ago and is now cast into the outer darkness for calling homosexual acts sinful.

  • smcgiff

    I’d be very satisfied if the English Cardinal (and no, not just because his parents came from Cork) became the next Pope.

    This may be helpful in uniting the Anglican and RC faiths.

    Anybody know what his linguistic skills are like?

  • Mrs Tilton

    smcgiff,

    why (and I ask this with no trace of smartarsery whatever) should the Anglican and RC faiths be united?

    I mean, even acknowledging the expressed wishes of a certain Jewish bloke (reported to be of some importance to Christianty) that ‘they all may be one’, why must these two denominations be *united*? As things stand at present, that would necessarily mean that Anglicanism became RC, or that the RC church became anglican.

    I am neither RC nor Anglican, and if the one denomination wishes to be subsumed into the other it is none of my business. As a Christian, I am all for all of us being united in the sense that we recognise that the thing we share, the only thing that gives the term ‘Christian’ any meaning that’s worth having, is more important than the traditions of any given denomination through which the Christianity of some of us finds its expression. But I’d actually look askance at one denomination gobbling another; that would put the denomination (a human invention) to the fore.

    (In fact I rather dislike even the terms ‘RC faith’ and ‘Anglican faith’. There is a single faith shared by Christians who are members of these and other denominations. Whatever details are peculiar to the one or the other denomination are, at best, distractions.)

  • Alan McDonald

    Rethinking Unionism,

    What is your definition for secular fundamentalism?

    Here in the USA we have a constitution that, as one of its fundametal norms, protects all religions by guaranteeing a secular society of laws. Is that the kind of fundamentalism you’re talking about? Christians and, particularly, protestants have sought a preference in public affairs in the USA while paying lip service to freedom of religion.

  • smcgiff

    ‘There is a single faith shared by Christians who are members of these and other denominations.’

    There are fundamental differences between some of the Christian churches. To my mind the Catholic churches (while one is Protestant) have more in common with each other than the conglomeration of Protestant Churches. The only qualification to be a Protestant church by definition is to have broken away from Rome, but the various degrees of separation are huge.

    There, in my opinion, is very little difference between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic church on issues of faith. And it seems very much man made bureaucracy that largely separates them. And, it has to be said, JPII was instrumental in halting greater unity. But it is certainly possible. Churches do evolve, and Protestantism itself is proof of this, as are the Vatican councils.

    ‘But I’d actually look askance at one denomination gobbling another; that would put the denomination (a human invention) to the fore.’

    That’s a good point and why there is a role for the different Protestant faiths, which would probably require compromise on faith to unite.

    This is my understanding anyway. To sum up, the differences between the Anglican church and the RC can be set aside if the men in robes can swallow some pride. Pride, I assume, is something you wouldn’t think is too high a price?

  • another_pleb

    This may be helpful in uniting the Anglican and RC faiths.

    smcgiff A more pressing issue for the catholic church is surely to reunite with the eastern orthodox churches. Afterall, the great schism of the late 14th century was a much larger change than the reformation.

  • Mrs Tilton

    That’s a good point and why there is a role for the different Protestant faiths, which would probably require compromise on faith to unite.

    Depends on what you mean by ‘unite’. When I lived in America, the denomination I belonged to had, in a sense, ‘united’ with several others. (Two kinds of presbyterian; congregationalists; and, I believe, Lutherans.) What this meant in effect was that a minister from one of these denominations could serve a congregation from any of them; members of these denominations had already been welcome to partake in communion services of the others. (Indeed my own denomination in any event kept an ‘open table’ to which all Christians, including RCs, were invited; if they believed they shouldn’t, that was their own affair.) But this was not a ‘merger’. The administrations of each of these churches remained separate, and congregations retained their own order of service and traditions. Now this is a sort of ‘unification’ that I quite like. There are differences between presbyterians and congregationalists and Lutherans; some merely aesthestic, some theological. But the union expressed the conviction that these differences were decidely less important that what was held in common.

    Given the RC church’s very different view of what ‘the church’ means, it would be unlikely that it would enter into ths kind of ‘union’ with another denomination. (This could happen only if the RC church underwent a sea-change; though the required change would be a good one from my own perspective, I acknowledge that the RC church would afterwards no longer be ‘RC’, as we understand the term today.) I think we may take it as read that the RC church is not going to jettison the pope and sign on to the Anglican communion any time soon. (It’s a tempting thought; given a few centuries they came to see that Galileo had been right, perhaps they’ll get around to the Reformers one day. But no, I don’t think I’ll bet the farm on this one…) Under present circumstances, any Anglican/RC union could only mean absorption of the Anglican churches by the RC church. This needn’t mean the end of the Anglican tradition; it’s possible that a distinct liturgy, a separate line of organisation, and possibly even married clergy would be maintained. There is precedent for this in the Eastern-rite catholic churches, which accept the pope but maintain the Byzantine ritual.

    The problem is that this would be absorption rather than union; the triumph of one denomination over another, not two denominations agreeing that their differences were of only secondary importance. And what’s more, it would increase, not decrease, disunity. It’s a safe bet that, where you once had two denominations, you’d now have three: the RC church proper; the ‘uniate’ Anglicans; and the remnant of Anglicans who declined to submit to papal authority. (And, if the history of the eastern churches is anything to go by, the latter two groups would despise each other in a most unedifying way.)

    I think overcoming denominational differences is a great thing. But I prefer to see it happen in ways that make denominations as such less, not more, important. To bring this back to topicality for this website, let’s say that my preferred metaphor for the furture of Christian denominations is not ’32 county sovereignty!’/’The Union must be maintained!’ so much as ‘Sure, with the EU and all that, national borders just won’t be as important any more.’

  • another_pleb

    Sorry, I meant the other Great Schism of 1054, not the Western Schism that created the Avignon Pope.

  • smcgiff

    I agree that the Orthodox religion should be included, A_P,

    But I’d like to work backwards. A Last Out First In system, as it were – LOFI! 😉

    Besides, for selfish reasons I’d like to see the two Catholic churches most affecting the part of the world I live in to unite.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Now this is a sort of ‘unification’ that I quite like’

    This seems very civil and sounds encouraging, but I don’t know enough about the denominations you mentioned to assess if there is any great differences between them.

    I disagree that either the Anglican or RC would have to be absorbed by either of the other for unification to happen.

    Certainly, Married priests would most certainly be a necessity and should happen in the RC without unification.

    If one believes that vocations are gifted by God, then you’d have to question the RC Church’s stance when these seem to have dried up significantly. It could be argued that God is showing his disapproval of the RC current stance.

  • Mrs Tilton

    don’t know enough about the denominations you mentioned to assess if there is any great differences between them.

    The Presbyterian Church USA and the Reformed Church in America are very similar. Both are presbyterian denominations. The former’s roots lay with Scottish and Irish immigrants to America; the latter’s, with Dutch and German immigrants. The RCA would probably be seen as a touch more conservative than the PCUSA, but this would be a difference of degree, not of kind. The United Church of Christ (the American congregationalists) tends to be very liberal, Lutherans rather more conservative. Both differ significantly from presbyterians in their structures of church governance. I have the impression that, doctrinally, the Lutherans are much closer to the RC church than are their three reformed partner-denominations. So: there are a good many differences, some but by no means all of them essentially cosmetic. There’s simply a conviction that these differences, even the substantial ones, pale by comparison with what is shared.

    I disagree that either the Anglican or RC would have to be absorbed by either of the other for unification to happen.

    In theory, you’re right. But as things stand now, I don’t think the RC church could enter into the kind of unity I am talking about without abandoning its most central claims. By doing so it would in effect become a protestant denomination. As I said, I personally would welcome such a development; but I’m not holding my breath. It may happen, but not, I think, for several centuries.

    for selfish reasons I’d like to see the two Catholic churches most affecting the part of the world I live in to unite.

    Well, sure, though as I wrote earlier, it depends on what you mean by ‘unite’. (As a presbyterian, BTW, I’d point out that I too belong to the catholic church, though not of course to the RC Church.)

    I agree with you that we will likely see married RC priests, and in the not very distant future. The late pope was famously against them, of course. But if one asks a Roman Catholic theologian, one might be surprised to learn that celibacy is not an essential RC doctrine but merely an administrative rule of the church (dating from the 11th c.) It could be done away with by the stroke of a papal pen; and if the RC church’s shortage of clergy continues to worsen, it might well be the very next pope who finally reaches for the sacred biro. The ordination of women will, I think, be a pricklier nettle for the RC church to grasp but I don’t doubt that it will happen, though that will take longer than will permitting priests to marry.

  • smcgiff

    Thanks for the info, Mrs Tilton,

    ‘The ordination of women will, I think, be a pricklier nettle for the RC church to grasp but I don’t doubt that it will happen, though that will take longer than will permitting priests to marry.’

    I agree. And because it took the Anglican church the best part of 2 millennium, relatively speaking, the changes will occur at the same time! 😉