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Friday, September 23, 2011


Robert Miller

This is a splendid commentary.
Germany/Austria is a province of the Church that Rome often has had difficulty understanding.
It's "vocation" is to be the ur-center of Christendom. But it emerged as the ur-center of the dividing of Christendom, in the time of Luther. Perhaps no one understands this paradox better than Pope Benedict XVI. This is why we must, as you obviously have done, ponder deeply his words on this trip to Germany.
Pope Pius XII came closest of all non-German national Popes to understanding the unique place of Germany/Austria in the tradition of the Church. The drama of the breakdown of the Holy Roman Empire, formally ended in 1806, but played out over the following century, was a central concern of the Vatican, until the dawning of Vatican II in the 1960s.
Now, Pope Benedict brings renewed attention, love and intimate knowledge of his homeland, and mature reflection to the interpretation of the los von Rom Bewegung that actually began in this Catholic heartland in the fourteenth century and that has had such momentous consequences for the Church and the world, in the Third Reich and in Vatican II, in the twentieth century and today.

fr. richard

I totally agree with Robert that this is an excellent piece, covering many great points. Thanks for that, Carl.

Charlie B

I've been re-reading The Problem of God, by John C. Murray, S.J. (1961). In it, he raises an interesting (to me anyway) question for ecumenism: Is the question "What think ye of the Church?" or "What think ye of homousion?," the centerpiece of creedal faith, the first time a non-biblical word was employed to define belief. In this case, to resolve the Arian heresy on the nature of Christ. If I get Murray, I think his point is that ecumenism must first address how the Church arrives at statements of faith, which implies the authority of the Church, rather than issues typically bantered around in "dialogue." I am sure its more complex than that, but I wanted to bring Murray's insight into the discussion. Great post, Carl.

Carl E. Olson

Thank you, kind sirs, for the kind comments. Much appreciated!

Charlie: Murray's point rings true to me. When I talk with fundamentalists, Mormons, or JWs, I don't get caught up in arguments for this or that particular doctrine, but ask them why they believe the Bible is the Word of God and if they know how the canon of the NT was established. Murray's point about the language of the Creed is an excellent one for discussions with fundamentalists or evangelicals. It goes to Ronald Knox's point in The Belief of Catholics that it makes no sense for a Protestant to accept Doctrines A, B, and C, and then reject the authority that formally established, defined, and defended those doctrines.

Gently Mad

A refreshing perspective on Luther. Thanks for the article. I enjoy many of your articles. They are obviously written with great thought and intelligence.

I have a question, however. How do you define fundamentalists or evangelicals? I have always considered myself both, which means knowing and believing the Bible is the inerrant word of God; I'm saved through Christ alone (no other name in heaven by which we are saved Acts 4:12); His death was counted as reparation for my sins when I repented and received His grace; I became saved and dead to my own sinful nature and was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit which now indwells within me because I have become a child of God. One day I will see God face to face as a co heir with Christ. Do Catholics believe differently?

Incidentally, Mormons and JW's don't accept any of those doctrines A,B,or C(regardless of what they say, they deny the deity of Christ).

I accept doctrines A,B, and C and acknowledge that they were established by the power of the Holy Spirit working through men. I know the Creeds well. None of them conflict with my "protestant" beliefs but there are doctrines in the Catholic church that do (and aren't mentioned in the creeds either).

If I reject the authority of the Catholic church over my life but believe these doctrines am I going to hell? If not, then why would I need to become Catholic? In other words, if joining the Catholic church is not essential to my salvation then why is it necessary to become Catholic?

David Hawkes

Gently Mad:

The doctrines you cited are all core doctrines of the (Catholic) Church. Salvation is not in the 'past tense' with Catholic doctrine. One's life is a witness towards God (and the Gospel of Christ) or it is a witness against it. It is not a matter of subjective feeling or a one time winner take all event. God judges on our lives faith and "works". "not all those who say "Lord, Lord," but those who do the will of my Father." A life of faithfulness not a single act of proclaiming 'faith' saves. A life of faithfulness lived out in love.
RE: the necessity of joining the Catholic Church for salvation. There is the grace of Christ poured out for us on the cross, this is a saving grace but how is it that we are able to receive that grace? The historical answer of Christianity (that is, the Church) is that Jesus says "this is my body, this is my blood" this is the one sacrifice of Jesus and "unless you eat the flesh of the son of man and drink his blood you will not have eternal life." This is not symbolic as Luther claims it is not 'in memory' of a past event. It is the Lord made present in the one sacrifice. It is 'the source and the summit of Christian life'. As a protestant the sacraments especially the Eucharist is treated as optional. This is not the witness of the ages.' In fact if you ask the question "What is the New Testament/New Covenant?" the typical person today would name the 27 books of the "Christian Scriptures" however, if you look at those texts themselves the only time "The New Testament" is used it is used in reference to the Eucharistic sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus did not write a book. Jesus did found a Church

Gently Mad

Thank you for your answer. I do see the difference between Catholics and Protestants here. Or at least some Protestants (I can't claim to speak for everybody). I must say that I don't believe that I can lose my salvation (some Protestants do). I believe that when Jesus said "And this is the will of Him who sent me that I shall lose none of all that he has given me but raise them up at the last day". (John 6:39): also, John 10:28: "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand." it means I have assurance of salvation.

HOWEVER, as you say, faith without works is no faith at all. Works don't produce salvation but faith does produce works. Any branch that doesn't bear fruit is cut off (John 15:6)indicating a life that never received salvation because those that abide in Christ will bear fruit (Ibed). I heartily agree with Carl that so many Protestant churches have capitulated and require no conviction or confession of sins and in fact, have become heretical in their efforts to be "nonjudging". This isn't Christianity. This is universalism.

Regarding communion, it is not considered optional in the Protestant church although I believe it's not given enough attention in too many churches. Jesus mandated that we "do this in remembrance of Him" in every gospel. To not do so is disobedience. The difference here is that as a Protestant we believe it is symbolic because when Jesus proclaimed the bread and wine as his body and blood His body hadn't been broken yet. He was sitting there among them, uncrucified.

Also, in John 6:63, when the disciples thought eating His flesh a hard saying Jesus said, "The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn't help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life".

You say Jesus did not write a book,but he did reveal Himself in one. The Bible is Jesus' written Word, which is Holy and immutable. The church is every single one of us who calls on His name to be saved.(Romans 10:13) Because I believe in Christ and accept his death as a substitutionary atonement for my sin I am His Bride.

So, in a nutshell, if I'm understanding you correctly, David, the Eucharist is a necessary process of salvation. Those of us who do not trust and partake of it or believe in its transubstantiation will lose our salvation or not become saved at all.

Again, thanks for taking the time to share the Catholic stance on salvation and communion with me. I'm glad to know it. Take care and many blessings!

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