Sunday, October 20, 2002

Here we go again...

As many readers and writers in this neighborhood of the blogosphere know, Robert Sungenis and his Catholic Apologetics International have been going through a bit of a, um... change lately. To get caught up on the goings-on, I'd recommend reading John Bett's blog devoted to the topic, Boycott C.A.I.!, as well as a perusing of Ut Unum Sint.

What I want to look at, though, is one of the newest pieces of writing to be found at CAI, written by relatively-new staffer, Jacob Michael. Mr. Michael's article, ECT's Ecumenical Wrecking-Ball and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (FYI, ECT stands for "Evangelicals and Catholics Together"; and thanks to Bill Cork for the link to this article), is another example of the trouble which some Catholics have with Fr. Neuhaus (see this for another example).

For some reason, I've decided to attempt a thorough response to Mr. Michael's article. I make no promises about finishing, though... the article runs 23 pages. But we'll see what happens...

After introducing the article, Jacob's own views become clear when he tells us of his concern that if we follow Fr. Neuhaus' way, joining the Roman Catholic Church will never be possible for anyone. I'm not sure how well Jacob knows Father's writing, but I my suspicion is... not so well. After all, Fr. Neuhaus himself is a convert, so it seems unlikely that he would support anything that would make conversion to Catholicism impossible.

Jacob next states that ECT's plan is "to eliminate Catholicism in toto." And he says that Fr. Neuhaus admits this in the talk that Jacob is parsing, the talk being "A Personal Retrospective on the Conversation between Evangelicals and Catholics." I have yet to see Fr. Neuhaus admit it, and again, he never would... Jacob seems to read things into Father's talk that simply aren't there.

Mr. Michael next is suspicious about the fact that Tim LaHaye (co-author of the Left Behind series and something of an anti-Catholic in his theology) was at one time -- in some way -- a part of ECT; Jacob asks, "what was he doing there to begin with?"

Now, I'm not sure what to make of this. I see what Jacob is saying, but I think there is a better way to view the situation. Jacob: wouldn't you want Tim LaHaye to be there? Wouldn't you want him to hear the fullness of the truth that is Catholicism in a forum in which his defensiveness to the Church might be somewhat lower than normal? Personally, I would be overjoyed if Mr. LaHaye were a part of ECT... he's definitely not going to hear about Catholicism in any other forum he's involved in. I really don't understand why his presence isn't a cause for joy, let alone being a cause for concern.

Jacob then quotes Fr. Neuhaus regarding the beginnings, expectations, and hopes for ECT; here is the quote from Fr. Neuhaus:

"Anyway, so, Evangelicals and Catholics, mixing it up together in confused and sometimes edifying ways, it's been going on for a very, very long time. Let me suggest that there are several aspects in what has been billed as a "personal reflection": something, first of all, on the history of how ECT came about, with what kind of expectations and what kind of hopes; then, what in fact has been the product of the enterprise; and perhaps, a word on those who have been, how shall we say to put it gently, somewhat "critical" of the enterprise. And then, finally, perhaps some reflections on prospects, where, one can reasonably hope in the years and the decades, and - who knows? - in the centuries ahead, God may utilize this enterprise that has come to be called Evangelicals and Catholics Together."

Somehow, Jacob sees in this statement an assertion by Fr. Neuhaus that the Holy Spirit is present "in equal measure" in all Christian communities; I have no idea how he sees this. Jacob does "concede" that the Holy Spirit is present in other Christian communities, but he says that this work is "the work of conversion". I'm not sure what this means... if it means that the only activity of the Holy Spirit among other Christians is that of conversion to Catholicism, I strongly disagree, as the Holy Spirit is also at work in the sacraments which are practiced validly in other Christian communities, baptism being the most notable.

Next, Jacob criticizes the usage of the phrase "brothers and sisters in Christ" as applied to other Christians. Jacob prefers the term "unrepentant rebel", arguing that Protestants are "runaways" more than anything. The problem I see here is this: if we're talking about the first generation of reformers, I agree: you could use the term "runaway" in some sense and be correct. The problem using it today to refer to other Christians is that the vast, vast majority of them didn't "run away" from anything: they were raised in other Christian communities, not in the Catholic Church. Moving on...

Referring next to Fr. Neuhaus' words on the evangelization imputus behind ECT, Mr. Michael states that it is false to say that "those who have fallen into heresy can assist the Catholic Church in bringing the Gospel to the world." Come, now Mr. Michael... you can't really believe that; you can't really believe that someone who has never before heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ is no better off than he was before if it is a Protestant who tells him of Christ, can you? Let me be clear: I believe that the Catholic Church has -- by the grace of God -- the fullness of truth and the means of salvation. But that does not mean that no one else has it, does it? Of course not.

Okay, that's enough for now; another installment to come. If you're lucky... :-)

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