Comment deleted!

Do you ever wonder what kind of comments come in to Pray Tell but don’t get approved? Below a rich example.

Dismiss Protestant ministry… accuse Protestants of not being “deep in history”…  call them and their theology “trendy”… throw in “empty head”… take a parting shot at “gray-headed old women”…

If this is what it means to belong to the One True Church, count me out. Ubi caritas and all that.


A comment on the post on clergy stoles:

But does it really matter? This article was in a Methodist publication – none of them are clerics anyway! Let them wear cheesehead hats or foamdomes as well. That said, I’m glad they recognize that the stole is of ancient Christian tradition. To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant after all…

As to other points, the stole developed from a Roman garment worn by prefects and other officials as a sign of their authority. The related maniple came from an ornamental cloth used to start races, flag people down, and dab sweat from the brow. Our stoles bear that tradition – they have stayed fairly obvious in their symbolism and usage.

The use of a “stole” by Protestants is just some trendy way to put their trendy theology on display. Nothing says “open heart empty head” better than something that looks like the color scheme of a print that hung in a McDonalds back in the ’80s or is made of kinte cloth and draped over a gray-headed old woman.


  1. How very constructive. What a contribution to the discussion. I can’t see why that was deleted…

    (just for the avoidance of doubt, the above may contain a hint of sarcasm).

    Thanks, awr, for keeping PrayTell civilised.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #2:

      In fairness, this is only fairness to the anonymous commenter and Newmann. To millions of faithful Christians like myself, it is a slap in the face. The slap may have a distinguished pedigree, but it is a slap nevertheless.

      1. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #3:

        And is your preferance to ignore real differences? Faithful Catholics do not believe as Protestants do, and in charity can not pretend otherwise.

        Is the faith not to be proclaimed because some do not already believe?

      2. @Scott Smith – comment #4:
        I have no desire to ignore differences, and do not wish for anyone to pretend they believe something when they do not. But it is hard to explore differences when insults masquerade as substantive conversation.

      3. @Scott Smith – comment #4:
        Who is closer to the teachings of the Church, a Mormon who lives frugally so as to give to the poor, or a Catholic who comes to Mass every Sunday and spends lavishly on himself while ignoring the poor? It can be argued either way. I think the point is, when we elevate obedience to the hierarchy as the highest virtue, we’re getting a bit off track.

      4. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #3:
        If only for circumspection’s sake, it should be remembered that AWR’s quotation of an editorially rejected comment for publication was meant, as I understand it, to illustrate his personal (as individual and as editor) convictions supporting Christian ecumenism. I don’t think he engages in stealth or back-handedness, and neither have I experienced Rev.Dr. Fritz engaging in such as well.
        I’m sure that any/all would regret this misunderstanding, Mr. Rehwaldt, but there was no actual “slap” intended or implied I would think.

      5. @Charles Culbreth – comment #4:

        I do not at all attribute the deleted comment and its pejoratives to either Anthony or Fritz, and applaud its use as an illustration here. Indeed, I am grateful to Anthony for his comments that precede it.

        (And as long as you’re using titles, I’m also a Rev. Dr.)

      6. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #10:
        Your comment is well-taken, Peter. This one as well as your first.

        Fritz, by saying simply that there’s a pedigree and an argument behind this implicit quotation — and an argument by a Catholic saint, at that — without distancing yourself at all from the sentiment of the commenter as it was quoted, you appear to be endorsing the comment. Don’t you see that? That may not be how you thought it or truly meant it, but that’s how it reads. That’s how it comes across. You say “an argument is not a slap in the face,” but you’ve made no argument, and neither has the commenter.

      7. @Rita Ferrone – comment #12:
        Like I said, the combination of iPhone and vet made for an apparently too-terse comment. And like I said on follow up, the quotation was extracted from its original context and used as a club in the deleted comment. My only real question was whether such a statement, in the context of the larger argument of JHN, would make the grade on PTB.

      8. In the interest of context, here is the quote with the paragraphs that precede it, from The Development of Doctrine (Introduction, 4-5), pp. 6-8:

        Accordingly, some writers have gone on to give reasons from history for their refusing to appeal to history. They aver that, when they come to look into the documents and literature of Christianity in times past, they find its doctrines so variously represented, and so inconsistently maintained by its professors, that, however natural it be à priori, it is useless, in fact, to seek in history the matter of that Revelation which has been vouchsafed to mankind; that they cannot be historical Christians if they would. They say, in the words of Chillingworth, “There are popes against popes, councils against councils, some fathers against others, the same fathers against themselves, a consent of fathers of one age against a consent of fathers of another age, the Church of one age against the Church of another age:”—Hence they are forced, whether they will or not, to fall back upon the Bible as the sole source of Revelation, and upon their own personal private judgment as the sole expounder of its doctrine. This is a fair argument, if it can be maintained, and it brings me at once to the subject of this Essay. Not that it enters into my purpose to convict of misstatement, as might be done, each separate clause of this sweeping accusation of a smart but superficial writer; but neither on the other hand do I {7} mean to deny everything that he says to the disadvantage of historical Christianity. On the contrary, I shall admit that there are in fact certain apparent variations in its teaching, which have to be explained; thus I shall begin, but then I shall attempt to explain them to the exculpation of that teaching in point of unity, directness, and consistency.

        Meanwhile, before setting about this work, I will address one remark to Chillingworth and his friends:—Let them consider, that if they can criticize history, the facts of history certainly can retort upon them. It might, I grant, be clearer on this great subject than it is. This is no great concession. History is not a creed or a catechism, it gives lessons rather than rules; still no one can mistake its general teaching in this matter, whether he accept it or stumble at it. Bold outlines and broad masses of colour rise out of the records of the past. They may be dim, they may be incomplete; but they are definite. And this one thing at least is certain; whatever history teaches, whatever it omits, whatever it exaggerates or extenuates, whatever it says and unsays, at least the Christianity of history is not Protestantism. If ever there were a safe truth, it is this.

        And Protestantism has ever felt it so. I do not mean that every writer on the Protestant side has felt it; for it was the fashion at first, at least as a rhetorical argument against Rome, to appeal to past ages, or to some of them; but Protestantism, as a whole, feels it, and has felt it. This is shown in the determination already referred to of dispensing with historical Christianity altogether, and of forming a Christianity from the Bible alone: men never would have put it aside, unless they had despaired of it. It is shown by the long neglect of ecclesiastical history in England, which prevails even in the English Church. {8} Our popular religion scarcely recognizes the fact of the twelve long ages which lie between the Councils of Nicæa and Trent, except as affording one or two passages to illustrate its wild interpretations of certain prophesies of St. Paul and St. John. It is melancholy to say it, but the chief, perhaps the only English writer who has any claim to be considered an ecclesiastical historian, is the unbeliever Gibbon. To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.

      9. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #14:
        Would it “make the grade” is a curious question. Jeffrey just posted it. There it is. Is this what make the grade would mean? But of course, I would add, not everything said by historical figures of great worthiness is equally valid, useful, or appropriate to quote today. Would Chrysostom’s views on women make good reading at PTB? Would CS Lewis’s views on women, for that matter?

        Certainly no one should fault Newman for not taking into account the commitments of Unitatis Redintegratio, since he died before it was written! 😉 But I would expect contemporary Catholic writers to operate in a somewhat different intellectual environment because of what we have received, been given, and learned through dialogue over the past 50 years, and also because of the pre-conciliar ecumenical movement.

        But maybe none of this is what you meant.

      10. @Rita Ferrone – comment #21:
        Rita, as I said above, “I hope and suspect” that Newman’s form would make the grade, and Jeffrey’s quotation has apparently confirmed this. I was trying to draw a distinction between a negative judgment as the conclusion of an argument (like Newman’s) and a negative judgment — using the same words — hurled as an insult (like the deleted post).

      11. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #11:
        (And as long as you’re using titles, I’m also a Rev. Dr.)
        Dear Reverend Doctor, please accept my humble apology. I had no frame of reference, and something prompted me to choose not to address you by your Christian name, so my option was generic, rather than titular. Sorry to have possibly caused further offense. Blessings.

        Thank you Jeffrey and Fritz for your perseverence.

        @Rita-as long as this thread has extended to a near-breaking tension level, would you be so kind as to offer your reflections on Shane Maher’s question?

      12. @Charles Culbreth – comment #25:

        I, too, have wondered about how to reply to various commenters — by first name? last name? with/without titles? — and have probably guessed wrong about as often as I’ve guessed right.

        Blessings to you as well.

      13. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #29:
        I KNEW IT! Extra, Extra! Read all about it: “Double Standard at PTB!” Eminent scholar permanent deacon slaps down bereft musician adorned only with an MA!
        Actually Fritz, you’re on the record as having assented to my calling you, uh, Fritz.
        Off topic, but germane? You decide. I’ve been inclined towards posting at the Cafe about the value of enjoying humor and comedy in our little echo chambers here at St. Blogs. Are we required to “be” so earnest always that we might appear to be morticians in our deliberations?
        Carry on.

      14. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #3:
        Newman’s remark was part of a much longer argument about what he saw as a problem with Protestantism. A disagreement is not a slap in the face. Of course pulled out of context and used as a club to beat people with, it functions quite differently.

        The point I would like to have pressed ( but didn’t since I was at the vet’s on my iPhone) was whether such a statement, coming from Newman and in the full context of his larger argument, would also be out of bounds on PTB. I hope and suspect not, since ecumenism is more that superficial niceness.

      15. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #8:

        I suppose it would depend on whether Newmann could use this comment while crafting his argument in such a way that Martin Marty and Jaroslav Pelikan, just to name two eminent non-Roman Catholic historians, would not be dismissed out of hand.

        The argument surely should not be out of bounds, but the notion that only Roman Catholics have a deep understanding and grasp of history is arrogant nonsense.

        Ecumenism is indeed more than superficial niceness. The GTU, where I did my doctoral work, revels in the give and take of the various faith traditions that make up its academic community and I delighted in the mix. Indeed, in having strong conversations that cross denominational lines, we are forced to explain ourselves and our beliefs in ways that we are not required to do when speaking “in house”. These conversations could — and sometimes did — get quite strong, but sweeping statements like the one used here from Newmann are not helpful in the least. I’m trying to come up with a context where it would not be seen as demeaning and dismissive, and all I get is *crickets*.

        I’m not asking for superficial niceness. I’m asking for respect.

      16. @Peter Rehwaldt – comment #11:
        Dear Peter
        It pains me to say it as a Catholic but this “dismissive & demeaning” attitude you correctly identify comes straight from the top.
        Just one example:the papal inclination to refer to the reformed Churches as “ecclesial communities” is mean spirited and, I believe, contrary to the gospel understanding of what it means to be church “where two or three are gathered…”
        I recall reading how an Antiochan Orthodox bishop took Pope JPII to task about the breathtaking arrogance contained in CArd Ratzinger’s document (endorsed by Pope JPII) Dominus Iesus.

      17. @Elias Nasser – comment #16:
        the papal inclination to refer to the reformed Churches as “ecclesial communities” is mean spirited and, I believe, contrary to the gospel understanding of what it means to be church “where two or three are gathered…”

        From the papal perspective, a “church” properly called requires a valid Eucharist, and therefore valid orders. Again, from the papal perspective, the vast majority of “Protestant” communities are lacking these two requirements. Thus they are not “churches”, but “ecclesial communities”. I’m not sure how to translate “ecclesial” here… maybe “church-ish”, “or “church-like”, or “church-y”? The point is, though, that these communities are ecclesial in nature, that they are ordered to the Church despite not being particular churches in their own right.

        The Gospel does not say that “where two or three are gathered, you have a church”.

      18. @Elias Nasser – comment #16:
        It seems to me that ecumenical sensitivity & a scholarly approach would require more than “mean spirited” and “contrary to the
        (G)ospel” when discussing these doctrines of the Catholic faith. We would need to look at Lumen gentium and the place that the sacraments have in the Catholic understanding of “Church” which includes more than “where two or three are gathered …”.
        I’d ask – is calling Catholic teaching “mean spirited” & “contrary to the gospel” really so far from the terms “trendy” or “open heart empty head” seen in the deleted post above? This post may make my earlier point that some of us at PTB are simply less sensitive to the ecumenicall impolitic statements that dismiss Catholic (and usually) Eastern Orthodox doctrines and practices that are not favored by progressives.

      19. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #9:
        “…since ecumenism is more that superficial niceness.” Well put and in the spirit of thoughtful ecumenicism do we see Protestants or progressives ever consider the wisdom in the Catholic teaching that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood on PTB? Do we see PTB discuss the gift of this kind of continuity in Catholic and Orthodox teaching or even the danger of meddling with tradition to follow the zeitgeist? The poster quoted may be reflecting a certain frustration that, at least here on PTB, the ecumenical sensitivity appears to usually only go one way. An insensitive post like the one posted above is clipped but argumentative posts about things like the cappa magna go unfiltered though some of those comments read similar to 19th c. Know Nothing criticism of Catholic pomp & tradition. I just wonder if we’ve ever seen a need to delete posts that criticize Catholic teaching on orders or morality or even those that belittle traditional Catholic practices? For example, criticisms of the traditional liturgy of our Roman Church also implicitly criticize Orthodox liturgical tradition & practice. I presume that it is possible that many at PTB may be more tolerant or ecumenically sensitive toward Protestant positions that mirror progressive goals than we are of Catholic or Orthodox positions that appear almost embarassingly traditional & conservative to many progressives.

      20. @Shane Maher – comment #15:

        Shane: Well put and in the spirit of thoughtful ecumenicism do we see Protestants or progressives ever consider the wisdom in the Catholic teaching that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women to the priesthood on PTB? Do we see PTB discuss the gift of this kind of continuity in Catholic and Orthodox teaching or even the danger of meddling with tradition to follow the zeitgeist?

        Shane, perhaps the statement I have quoted suggests that you wish for there to be very rigid boundaries for discourse? Perhaps also your quotation implies that those who transgress these boundaries should be regarded as unorthodox or even heretical just for wondering about or struggling with Church teachings?

        I recognize the theological arguments which the Catholic magisterium and Orthodox synods have advanced in opposition to women’s ordination. In particular, I am sensitive to the way in which apostolic Christianity employs metaphorical gendered language to order the relationship between the clergy and the sacraments over which they preside. Still, many Catholics of open mind realize that women not only capably speak in Christian assemblies, but also capably instruct and lead Christian assemblies. Is it better for those who struggle with the disjunct between theological abstraction and lived experience to not voice their doubts? The elevation of any theological tenet, including the ontology of orders, to a litmus test of group loyalty is an idolization of theology. I speak only for myself when I say that an idolization of doctrine, liturgy, or theology is often a great leap into a lack of charity for fellow Christians. I know, because Catholic fundamentalism once served as a shield against the painful process of listening and empathizing with others’ concerns.

      21. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #26:
        Jordan, it would probably be more useful if you were to engage with the text of Shane’s comment, rather than a hypothetical implication and posited subtext.

        That it’s even possible that folks had to wonder if quoting Newman on the correctness of Catholic claims was outside the bounds of legitimage discourse points to a marginalization of conservative views.

        Jonathan Day wrote in another thread about the “odious” Michael Davies and reiterated his view before eventually walking it back. That stood kind of discourse stood.

        I don’t expect that a post calling the leadership of the LCWR or Bishop Schori or Martin Luther odious would be welcomed.

      22. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #31:

        Thank you Sam for calling me out on this. I was wrong to not answer Shane’s comments directly. I also regret my choice of words and phrases. See my response to Shane later in the thread.

        I am not convinced that questioning whether or not Newman on doctrine is out of bounds is a marginalization of conservative views. Questioning can lead to exclusion of other viewpoints, especially when a range of discussion participants display an imbalance between viewpoints. Human beings (and particularly this one!) are particularly known for demonstrating bias even without moving lips or putting words to page or screen. PTB, like any forum, has to account for the way in which individuals in dlalogue negotiate prejudices.

      23. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #26:
        Jordan: my comments were clear I think. I’m only suggesting the same sensitivity to the Catholic position as we give to others on PTB. Why does it seem more impolitic on PTB to question certain denominations’ historically revisionist approach to ordination than it is to deride the Catholic teaching contained in OS? The EF and the cappa are frequently lamented but great sensitivity is properly given to mainline P. liturgical practice as seen in the post on clergy stoles. It is no more polite to ridicule the EF and the cappa than it is to ridicule the worship and practice of the EO or contemporary Methodists. Ecumenical sensitivity requires that we admit, by the way, that there is a Catholic (and EO) position on issues like woman’s ordination just as there is toward the nature of “Church”. You talk about “listening” and “empathizing” while also using loaded terms like “open mind” (as opposed to closed ones), “idolization” and “fundamentalism”. “Listening” includes undersatanding that “a woman’s ability to speak in Christian assemblies” has nothing to do with the Catholic or EO doctrine on orders nor does it really address the concerns Catholics traditionally have with doctrinal/theolocial/disciplinary revisionism via general assemblies or general conventions.
        Back to the “open mind” comment – Jordan, do you think that proponents of women’s ordination are really open to the possiblity that the Church does not have the authority to ordain women as given in OS?

      24. @Shane Maher – comment #33:

        Shane: I apologize for not addressing your points directly. You were clear in intent and message. It was not right for me to question what I perceived about your statement rather than your statement itself. The terms I used were also quite biased, as you note. It is not true that any person who is a devotee of older liturgical forms or advocates for a specific theology is intrinsically “fundamentalist”. In this case, I refer more to my own experiences and current understanding of the term. I should have made this more clear.

        I don’t know what proponents of women’s ordination think about magisterial teaching. I am agnostic on the topic: should I affirm Catholicism once more, I will intellectually assent to the teaching that ordination is reserved for men (viri) only. Do I intuitively understand Rome’s prohibition on women’s ordination? No, because I am not knowledgeable enough on the ontology of orders to fully convince myself of the logic of the teaching. Do I emotionally accept the prohibition on women’s ordination? No, because I know that women are not only endowed with the same dignity and intellect of men, but are also often excellent ministers of word and sacrament in other Christian traditions. Although you have not said or insinuated this point, the question of women’s ordination, and individual Catholics’ opinions on the matter, cannot be reduced to either absolute affirmation or absolute rejection.

      25. @Shane Maher – comment #33:
        I wish someone wold look up a video interview that is or has been for years posted on the website of the Greek Orthodox archdiocese. In it, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware mentions doubts about the position on ordination of men only and says that in his opinion the arguments advanced so far are not strong.

        If there were reunion, would he have to be silent?

        Mark MIller

  2. Well into my twenties I harbored sentiments very similar to the person who wrote the deleted post. I wanted to believe (and, in retrospect, deluded myself into thinking) that a liturgical fundamentalism can save. No, through baptism we all die in Christ and are radically conformed to him. Now, I’ve swung to the opposite pole, where I have great doubts about my faith. At the very least though, I no longer believe that my fellow Christians of other traditions are to be avoided. Indeed, to reject the clergy of other Christian traditions is to reject their pastoral and homiletic gifts. Pastor Rehwaldt, I apologize for being one of those Catholics who, at one time, denigrated the gifts of clergy of other Christian traditions.

    I am particularly struck by the barely veiled anger the mentioned poster harbors towards women clergy. Indeed, my fundamentalism finally shattered when I realized the incomprehensible disjunct between baptism, which unites us to Christ above any consideration of gender, and the Catholic Church’s restriction of holy orders to men. Perhaps the aforementioned poster’s hostility signifies a personal reluctance to address the above issue. This is not for me to speculate upon, however.

    I must say that I have also been chastened to know that most posts on PTB are by men. Have I been listening to my sisters in Christ in general, and here on PTB in particular?

    The post mentioned above has proven to be a quite revealing mirror onto my own development in the Christian community.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #5:
      “I must say that I have also been chastened to know that most posts on PTB are by men.”
      Jordan, do you think that is happenstance or divinely ordered? More to the point from a Pauline perspective, should that matter?

      1. @Charles Culbreth – comment #6:

        No, certainly what you have quoted Charles is not divinely ordered. Paul is clear in the Body of Christ metaphor: in Christ we are without gender, ethnicity, or background. As I have remarked before, we are just “brother” and “sister”. I have only two biological brothers. I do not have a biological sister. Perhaps this is why I question whether I am attentive to the perspectives of sisters in Christ. When I talk to my biological brothers, I am not usually conscious that they are male, as if their gender overpowers their dignity or perspective. I think that to be siblings in Christ is to look past gender to a person and his or her dignity, thoughts, and feelings.

        PTB can be a place where Christian siblings irrespective of gender are able speak freely and with respect only if I demonstrate in my posts and comments that I have listened to what siblings have said without reservation. My thoughts are verbiage without a consideration for their sensibilities.

    2. @Jordan Zarembo – comment #5:
      Dear Jordan, thank you for your honesty. I, too, have made a similar (though not identical) journey.
      From a faith perspective, my certainties have been swept from underneath me. I feel a little tossed from side to side.
      But i will never return to a false certitude of (Catholic) fundamentalism; God has given us a brain to use; I will try to use it.
      No longer is it sufficient to say (for me at least) Roma locuta causa finita est

  3. Offensive? Yes. Angry? Very. Unhelpful? Unquestionably.

    Easily distinguished from comments by Bill DeHaas or the guy with Cdl. Burke as his picture? Well….

  4. Deacon Fritz, just give a straight answer: are you now — or have you ever been, or been associated with — a Newmanist?

    In all seriousness, though, I think Fritz’s terse remark is being blown out of proportion. He was attempting (as far as I can tell) to give context to a quote in need of it. Maybe he was even trying to help save face for anyone who might blindly go off ranting about the quote without knowing its pedigree. (Not that pedigree alone redeems an offensive quote.)

  5. • From *Followers of the Preconciliar liturgy plan a pilgrimage to Rome* #34 – JD – “First, I was not intentionally indulging in hyperbole in what I said about Michael Davies. The passage I quoted is very close to sedevacantism, and it is not atypical of his writing. Davies’ overblown rhetoric has caused terrible anxiety for many Catholics, leading them to wonder whether the Holy Spirit has in fact abandoned the Church or whether they can trust the Church to withstand the gates of hell. It has led more than a few into the SSPX. His work represents bad scholarship, weak ecclesiology and pastoral recklessness. I didn’t know the man, he may have been perfectly gentle and personally saintly, but most of his published work is simply dreadful. So will happily amend my statement to “the odious writing of Michael Davies”, but I stand by that.”

    • From that same post – #35 – AmcD – “There are many progressives who are equally guilty of driving people from the full communion of the Church or attracting them to a less than full communion experience of it in their particular take on the Church. The situation with the LCWR is a case in point, not in terms of all the good works they do, but some of their more “odious” theologies concerning the nature of the Church and Holy Orders. This last sentence of mine will raise the hackles of not just a few here who would canonize them, like so many on the right canonize SSPX. I absolutely agree with you in terms of your last paragraph, but it is a two way street. My comment here might be best under the “Deleted” post, but there is a tendency to allow the most godawful rhetoric directed toward traditionalists in terms of lace and cappas that gets a pass here and is even encouraged. It’s not so much that people don’t like these sorts of things, it goes way, way deeper and is much more insidious.”

    Two different posts and folks appear to be walking past each other. Not sure that Mr. Day *walked back his Davies comment*? Would make some distinctions between hyperbole based upon research, experts in the field, studies, etc. and hyperbole based upon hyperbole (not facts) and all too often copied/pasted from other blogs. This results in unsupported hyperbole that, in many ways, is just another form of innuendo, gossip, etc.

    Examples – Some are basically justifying *hyperbole* using a *tit for tat* methodology. If progressives have done something, then, traditionalists should also be able to respond in kind. As Fr. Ruff has stated to Allan a number of times, his narrative, all too often, starts with a couple of distant historical liturgical experiences (negative) that he then goes on to magnify; draw sweeping generalizations; and then basically he uses the same approach he condemns to justify his own *liturgical tinkering* (as others have commented – feels like he is repeating the same *sins* of the early 1970’s folks he condemns). Fr. Ruff characterized this as another form of *ad hominem* but *ad personal history*.
    • One of the dividing lines appears to be the way one views the hierarchy and papal magisterium. Many experts have cited concerns about the growing “cult of personality” around the pope. Would suggest that when you base your decisions upon the pronouncements of one individual pope as if he has all certitude, you have reduced things to a new type of *relativity*. It reduces the church to a narrow, rigid institution. It loses the *both/and* of Vatican II starting with baptism and the people of God and then defining the various ministries and roles in the church. It can create situations that make a faith journey into a litmus test and reduces adult decisions, virtue of obedience, etc. into some type of blind, unthinking adherence to a catechism. It results in using terms such as *dissent*; *not in full communion* and an exercise in always making judgments rather than listening and dialoging. Always thought that part of the adult faith journey was to ask questions and seek understanding without being condemned or sanctioned because one had the temerity to question a papal prounouncement or curial document?
    • What happens when a pope changes and decisions change, policies are revoked; etc. Where is *continuity* in this approach? It appears that many commenters reference council decisions, documents, and directives – these, at least, are more in continuity; if for no other reason than that councils don’t happen every 15-25 years. Councils also consist of bishops of the world (not the curia) which is the core of our church understanding in terms of leadership and office. We have also seen that taking a quote or paragraph from a specific pope may be out of context; this is then posited as a *fact* when in reality, that specific pope meant something completely different. And when you place so much upon papal pronouncements, what happens to your own bishop, what happens to the local church and community? What happens to *pastoral decisions* when a curial hierarchy dominates all dialogue?
    • Interesting that certain neuralgic issues are used in these comments – examples: cappa magna, LCWR, ordination, etc. As some have said, these issues assume an importance that goes well beyond their value and results in using terms such as *odious*. When one uses this type of language:
    • “There are two kinds of dissent in the Church today, that of liberal, progressives who have been and are still suggesting the deconstruction of the Church and “re-imaging” it according to the deleterious reconstruction of the Episcopal Church. The group that symbolizes this most, but is not alone, is the LCWR. The LCWR and groups like them do pose a serious threat for outright heresy. This is in the area of Holy Orders and the Magisterium of the Church where they strike at the heart of the Church and want to redefine the Church in the most false egalitarian way. But there is one major difference between the LCWR and the SSPX. The LCWR is subversive and disingenuous. They lack courage to ordain a bishop and set all their cards on the table. Whereas the SSPX has always been straight as an arrow in terms of their demands and laying all their cards on the table and then making extremely clear through the ordination of bishops their intent. The SSPX is honest the LWCR isn’t.
    • This type of language is *odious* and goes along with an earlier Allan v Day exchange about liberal catholics that resulted in an Allan apology of sorts.

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #35:
      “the deleterious reconstruction of the Episcopal Church.”

      I would consider the Episcopal Church in the US to be far healthier than the Roman Catholic Church in the US by almost any standard. (Please don’t respond by suggesting I join the Episcopal Church!)

      “But there is one major difference between the LCWR and the SSPX. The LCWR is subversive and disingenuous. They lack courage to ordain a bishop and set all their cards on the table. Whereas the SSPX has always been straight as an arrow in terms of their demands and laying all their cards on the table and then making extremely clear through the ordination of bishops their intent. The SSPX is honest the LWCR isn’t.”

      The LWCR to date has tread a tightrope to stay in communion with Rome while the SSPX has held itself apart. I suppose in some quarters that makes the LWCR a group of fifth columnists. The Woman’s Ordination Conference has ordained women, and the members and even visible supporters have been excommunicated for their efforts.

      1. @Brigid Rauch – comment #37:
        The Episcopal church lost 23% of its active members between 2000 and 2010, and it is substantially smaller than it was 50 years ago, in absolute terms, not just relative to the general population. 56% of those raised as Episcopalian eventually leave the church. And the Episcopal church keeps breaking apart, with whole congregations and even the majority of certain dioceses (e. g., Pittsburgh) leaving the church. The notion that the Episcopal church is “far healthier” than the Catholic Church in America is unsupported by the evidence.

      2. @Tom Piatak – comment #44:
        The 23% wasn’t quite a loss of active members in all cases – they’ve had some schisms where the break-away dioceses are no longer counted in the total, as you also indicate.

        But apart from that – being healthy isn’t about numbers. Not by a long shoot. Those are two very different things.

        I’d be cautious about playing the numbers game anyway – what if the U.S. Roman Catholic numbers on youth and young people leaving starts to exceed that of the other churches, as some studies suggest ? Then the numbers argument doesn’t work.


      3. @Tom Piatak – comment #44:
        Two problems in the verification-by-number theory:

        First, Catholic immigrants from Latin America and Asia offset the loss of young adult Catholics largely ignored by church leaders.

        Second, when speaking of Anglo believers only, recent indications show that mainline Protestants are doing a comparable job in retaining young adults as compared to Catholics. And that evangelicals may not be retaining young adults either, either those poached from other Christian traditions, or those reared in the faith.

        Given the hemorrhaging of young adults across the board, I ask our triumphant commentators once again: do you think this is a better time to crow about how much better the Roman tradition is in comparison to other Christians, or perhaps a time to address the challenge of new or re-evangelization with something less of a smug look of superiority on our faces?

      4. @Todd Flowerday – comment #47:
        It’s one thing to lose members because of the truth that is taught. Human freedom is never compromised even in the face of truth. Even Jesus lost a great number of followers because of the truth he spoke and the hyperbole he used, such as today’s Gospel for St. Dominic. It is quite another thing to bleed members because of a loss of truth that has occurred in many institutions of the Catholic Church and of course in the Episcopal Church. My former bishop, Raymond W. Lessard was on the Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission and in the 1970’s was hopeful for an organic reunion between Rome and Canterbury much like what is occurring with the Anglican Ordinariate today but on a wholesale scale. All that came to a crashing, disillusioning halt with the various twists and turns the Anglican Communion took in the late 1970’s and well into our own day. It is quite sad to say the least.
        It really shouldn’t be the numbers game but the “orthodox” game that we should be concerned about.

      5. @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #48:
        Again, the virtue of prudence would seem to be required.

        When Jesus discussed faith with the pharisee in the middle of the night, he did not preface his remarks (at least as far as the evangelist relates) by hurling insults about whitewashed tombs at Nicodemus, thus setting the table for a fully “truthful” discussion.

        I would ask: is it a loss of truth or a loss of confidence? Catholic confidence in their institution is near an all-time low, running about half of what it was in 1975.

        On the other hand, bleeding of members might be addressed in part by the simple approach of inviting people home. It remains the number one single thing inactive Christians are looking for that would bring them back.

        I’ve seen a lot of the studies on religion population and retention. They interest me little in the practical world, as in two weeks my parish will see the descent of perhaps 7,000 baptized Catholics into our university community, a healthy fraction of which will come to our doors, but a fraction nonetheless.

        My challenge is how to counteract trends which begin at least in middle-adolescence if not childhood, and likely do not center around the weighty issues of Anglican orders or even MR3. I could expend a lot of energy debating the local Episcopalians and Evangelicals, but the truth is I have enough to keep me busy between my nose and the grindstone.

        The truth is that it’s not always about the truth.

      6. @Todd Flowerday – comment #53:
        The biggest problem I see in my neck of the woods isn’t so much all the hot button social issues, but a great deal of superficiality when it comes to being a follower of Christ as a Catholic and these same Catholics being drawn in all kinds of competing directions in terms of belief and practice. In my parish of about 1300 registered households about 550 are truly committed, which is not bad. But I agree most people want meaning and purpose for their lives and at their lives’ various stages. Often it is about finding God’s love, acceptance and peace of mind especially in the dramatic moments of their lives.

      7. @Tom Piatak – comment #44:
        In time the communicants making up the EPCUSA and the various breakaway Anglican groups and Lutherans will be former Catholic priests, Catholic converts, and the evangelicals drawn to Episcopal services, but have never been and probably never will be CONFIRMED Anglicans. Not sure just who bishop Schori counts as Anglicans when taking surveys. Dues paying and confirmed, or just confirmed members?

        Your figures, while true to some extent, are also misleading. I know of several Anglican parishes a stone’s throw from me where all the clergy attached to these churches are former Catholic priests ,and I would bet almost anything at least a third of the membership is made up of former Catholics. I think you might find a similar phenomenon occurring in some of the Evangelical Lutheran parishes as well. That may be far more revealing than absolute losses.

        The Anglican Church of Canada has gone so far as to devise a canonical procedure and a rite of “reception” for Catholic priests. So, there appears no shortage of former Catholic personnel there either. I don’t know if the EPCUSA or the CofE have the same set of procedures.

        Anglicanism thrives on it’s divisions. Doctrinal uniformity never was the cement that binds and it may never be, but the bigger threat to their numbers may come when cradle-born Catholics and Anglicans start flocking to an Anglican Ordinariate liturgy preserving more of Anglican spirituality and liturgical “patrimony” than the Anglican Communion does.

        When it starts to draw cradle born Catholics from the NO and the TLM that will tell you more about the magnetic power of Anglicanism than any statistic reflecting loss of membership in the EPCUSA.
        With the Catholic Church in the U.S. having lost millions of it’s own members (some estimates are as high as 25 to 30 million) since the publication of “Humane Vitae”, it does little good to wallow with smug self-satisfaction in the seeming misfortunes of other…

      8. @Tom Piatak – comment #44:
        …Now go and get the stats on how many people are leaving the Roman Catholic Church and how its numbers have shrunk over the years.

    2. @Bill deHaas – comment #36:
      Not sure that Mr. Day *walked back his Davies comment*?

      You’ve quoted the place where he walked it back by writing “the odious writing of Michael Davies.” He had originally written, “the odious Michael Davies.”

  6. I am discomforted by ecumenical dialog which is inherently dismissive (“They have no history, they are invalid, can’t call them church.” It is equally dismissive when Protestants call Roman Catholics a cult or papists). There is no place for us/them language in the church among baptized believers. Protestant Christians are part of the catholic church by definition if you hold that that term means universal. I very much appreciate the careful discourse shown at PTB. Since the editors write from the Roman Catholic perspective, perhaps they feel the duty to be gracious hosts.

    1. @Joel Walkley – comment #40:

      The problem is that if we forbid someone from saying, e.g. “Anglican ordinations are invalid,” on the grounds that it is “dismissive” we will have ourselves dismissed the Roman Catholic Pope, the Orthodox, among others. So in what way is this ecumenical then? Perhaps we just have to live with occasionally being discomforted.

      1. @Samuel J. Howard – comment #41:
        It can be a difficult thing, this virtue of prudence. There are many truths among and between estranged Christians, and if the aim is to be correct, then I suspect that all of us have reason and opportunity to be squirming in our seats.

        On the other hand, the example of the Lord Jesus gives us a much deeper truth. As the Son of God, he went out of his way, to the point of suffering a criminal’s execution, not to point out he was correct, but to inspire others to follow him.

        At some point, a Christian is going to have to swallow a good bit that is uncomfortable, and perhaps even one or two bites of injustice for a greater good.

        A more domestic interlude: my teenage daughter is a twit about many things. I can state the truth of the matter to her, “You are an illogical twit!” Will that accomplish my aim? It seems rather narcissistic. If I want to inspire her to be a better student, I’m probably going to have to gulp down some measure of reason and aim instead for the greater good than my correctness as a parent, namely her success as a high school student.

        The validity of Anglican orders may well be a good theological question. My question in turn is this: in a world in which Christianity is undergoing huge stresses from within and without, do we stand stronger, and with a more hopeful future by emphasizing such discomfort? Perhaps there comes a time when the greater good is served by calling out an adolescent. And perhaps there comes a time when we point fingers at Catholic bishops and shout, “Immoral!” for their broad complicity in sex crimes and cover-up. And of course, who gets to decide these issues? People who cling to comforts? People with an authorized link to Peter and the apostles? Doesn’t seem like Jesus was playing up equality with God; not to me, anyway.

  7. I must remind folks that many Orthodox consider Roman orders to be without grace and thus invalid. I say many, but I suspect that most Orthodox hold to the same opinion. They have not forgotten the destruction of Constantinople by the Latins.

    I should think we all should have humility before casting charges of invalidity against each other.

    1. @Brian Duffy – comment #45:
      I must remind folks that many Orthodox consider Roman orders to be without grace and thus invalid.
      Yes, especially most of the Old Calenderist Greek churches and Old Believers in Russia. Easily a fourth of all Orthodox Christians don’t believe the pope or Latin rite Catholics are anything other than heretics possessing invalid sacraments. Not unlike the Sedevacantists and some SSPX.

      Other Eastern Orthodox dioceses engaging in ecumenical activities, or using the western calendar are often singled out as heretics. Their clergy are also labeled invalid.

  8. I echo Todd’s sentiment that the main concern should be the losses across the board, not which Christians are doing the best. We all have problems retaining people.

    That said, this report from CARA indicates that, relatively speaking, Catholics do at least somewhat better than Protestant churches and considerably better than some Protestants (including Episcopalians).

    In particular, the CARA report points out that the much talked-about Pew study that indicated that ex-Catholics were the second largest single religious group in the US (behind Catholics) failed to distinguish between Protestant denominations, but only between Protestants and Catholics. Thus if someone switches between being an Episcopalian and, say, a Methodist, the Pew study did not register this. So the CARA data seems to give a better picture of at least one (but only one) measure of the health of different denominations.

    Still, a 68% retention rate is nothing for Catholics to crow about, particularly when that figure is not adjusted to reflect actual religious practice, such as frequency of participation in the sacraments.

    I do take some comfort in the terrible retention rate of atheists.

    1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #49:
      The CARA figures for Presbyterians for example seem to illustrate a denomination becoming what was once called the “church of old people”. With the highest rate of decline of any mainline Protestant church below age 60. The same be occurring within Anglicanism, It may also explain why those remaining in these two denominations are usually affluent, well educated, and moderate to liberal politically, or are they?

      Is the Catholic Church driving away Catholics 18 to 35? Are Catholics who are affluent and or well educated flocking to these supposedly more liberal mainline churches because of the issue of gay marriage and women’s ordination, or other issues? Both churches constantly report large former Catholic populations. So, do the Lutherans.

      Are CARA and the USCCB actually interested in asking why this trend is developing?

      I’d also like to see a survey of Catholic attitudes toward the eucharist at all age levels. I can well remember knowing priests and seminarians professing a neo- Zwinglian few of the Real Presence before the Council, and reading of others with similar views since the Council.

      Is there a correlation between one’s view of the eucharist and the Mass by Catholics at different age levels and the retention rate or departure rate from the Catholic Church?

      1. @Brigid Rauch – comment #59:
        Dunstan can reply for himself, and, at the risk of gross oversimplification, I’ve normally encountered Catholic references to Zwingli’s views on the eucharist to cover the idea that there is no substantial change in the bread and wine, but that they now have a change in signification: that is, they signify the paschal mystery and a Christian’s participation in, and allegiance to(because “sacramentum” involved allegiance in the military context where the term originated), the community of believers

      2. @Brigid Rauch – comment #59:
        To follow up on Karl’s response, here’s a paragraph from the Wikipedia summary of Zwingli’s idea of the Eucharist:

        Zwingli credited the Dutch humanist, Cornelius Henrici Hoen (Honius), for first suggesting the “is” in the institution words “This is my body” meant “signifies”. Hoen sent a letter to Zwingli in 1524 with this interpretation along with biblical examples to support it. It is impossible to say how the letter impacted Zwingli’s theology although Zwingli claimed that he already held the symbolic view when he read the letter. He first mentioned the “signifies” interpretation in a letter to Matthäus Alber, an associate of Luther. Zwingli denies transubstantiation using John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is of no avail”, as support. He commended Andreas Karlstadt’s understanding of the significance of faith, but rejected Karlstadt’s view that the word “this” refers to Christ’s body rather than the bread. Using other biblical passages and patristic sources, he defended the “signifies” interpretation. In The Eucharist (1525), following the introduction of his communion liturgy, he laid out the details of his theology where he argues against the view that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ and that they are eaten bodily.

        Paul VI, in 1965, wrote in Mysterium Fidei 11 that “it is not permissible … to concentrate on the notion of sacramental sign as if the symbolism – which no one will deny is certainly present in the Most Blessed Eucharist – fully expressed and exhausted the manner of Christ’s presence in this Sacrament; or to discuss the mystery of transubstantiation [as meaning] nothing more than ‘transignification’ or ‘transfinalization’ as they call it.”

        Zwingli’s view of the Eucharist can probably be described as “transignification”.

      3. @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #61:
        I will leave this to my theological betters to correct, but I believe that the transignification of mid-20th century Catholic theologians was not necessarily fully congruent with the Zwinglian understanding of the Eucharist. My impression, faulty as it may be, is that there has been some convenient linkage that may be anachronistic.

      4. Karl Liam Saur : @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #61:I will leave this to my theological betters to correct, but I believe that the transignification of mid-20th century Catholic theologians was not necessarily fully congruent with the Zwinglian understanding of the Eucharist. My impression, faulty as it may be, is that there has been some convenient linkage that may be anachronistic.

        That’s the “neo-” in “neo-Zwinglian.”

  9. There are many branches of Christianity that seem to be attracting new members and retaining the ones they have such as the non-denominational Churches, where truth is not outright denied but it seems more to be the power of positive thinking rather than traditional Protestant Christianity that is promoted. Joel Osteen’s brand of Christianity comes to mind. Again, it shouldn’t be the numbers game that determines effectiveness for even heretics can be quite effective as in the early Church

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