Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Conversation with an Evangelical Protestant

My Protestant friend JDR raises the issue in our high school alumni groupmail that there are "differences between the bible and the catechism of the Roman Catholic Church as compiled by the Magisterium". He maintains there are a "thousand and one issues", and proceeds to list 10 of them. He concludes by saying: "The list goes on and on. Isn't it better to just drop the bible altogether than to claim belief in it as the word of God, claim allegiance to God and then diametrically oppose it?".

My response:


The "thousand and one issues" - 10 of which you raise here, disingenuously implies a dichotomy between the Bible and the Roman Catholic Church. You know that we have already tackled some of those items (was it more than a year ago?). There is no dichotomy between Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, but there is an inextricable link between them. Catholics always say that Tradition serves Scriptures, and in no way contradicts them.

Your top ten list is obviously written from a Protestant perspective, just by the way they are framed: "the bible teaches..(whereas)...the RCC teaches...", which upfront tries to frame a dichotomy where there is none.

Let us take for example your first issue:

1) The bible teaches that grace is a free gift (Romans 11:6). RCC teaches that grace is merited by good works (2010, 2027).

The Catholic doctrine correctly understood is Faith AND Works, and not by good works (only). In fact the sections of CCC you cited states:

"2010. Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions. "

"2027 No one can merit the in itial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."

Nowhere in those two sections is it stated that grace is merited by good works alone. Catholics just emphasize BOTH Faith AND Works, for in CCC 2029 it says further

"2029 If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me".

Surely that last one is biblical, is it not? (Mt 16:24).

The other nine issues in your list would be tackled in similar manner. Only a selective reading (or a selective misreading) of the Bible along with the Cathechism, would seem to show that there is a dichotomy between the Bible and Sacred Tradition. There is none.

As I have said in my previous post, these are old issues which have been already addressed as early as the 16th century. What you are doing is just revisiting the issues. We are only having a disagreement because Protestants individually interpret the bible without a central authority. The analogy goes like saying that all lawyers are free to personally interpret the Constitution and there is no need for the judiciary or the Supreme Court.

Bishop Fulton Sheen once said:

"There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is of course, quite a different thing."
- WillyJ


John-D Borra said...

Well said!

With all due respect to JDR, it seems a bit intellectually dishonest to frame a dichotomy where there is none. While there are many differences between the Roman Catholic Church and other churches, resolving these in the spirit of courageous and honest discussion would be, in my humble opinion, best served by approaching these differences from the perspective of things we have in common.


WillyJ said...


Yes, although the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of Truth, we also do not claim monopoly of all truths. Along these lines, there have been great strides in the ecumenical movement. Pope Benedict XVI said before that "We must guard against any temptation to view doctrine as divisive and hence an impediment to the seemingly more pressing and immediate task of improving the world in which we live."
"The road of ecumenism ultimately points towards a common celebration of the Eucharist".

Peace also with you!