Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is Pope Francis a Distributist?


I'm still unpacking the pope's apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium.  There is much to glean here, but at this point I think it is now safe to say that the mainstream media got it 100% wrong on Pope Francis. He is not the liberal-modernist "hippy pope" they made him out to be. Quite to the contrary, the pope is a conservative, a radical and a traditionalist all rolled into one.  He is John Paul II + Benedict XVI + Leo XIII + Pius XI + a massive dose of steroids!  I'll be mining this apostolic exhortation in the weeks to come. Today, however, something stood out in a very glaring way. There is no way around this one.  Pope Frances does not support supply-side ("trickle down") economics. In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, the Holy Father had these stinging words to say about Western capitalism...
53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. 
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “disposable” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”. 
54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and na├»ve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase; and in the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
Now this is not some news media characterisation of his comments.  These are his actual penned words. The pope is no fan of capitalism in the modern Western understanding of it. This is a blistering attack on the supply-side form of Western capitalism popular among many U.S. Neoconservatives, Republicans and Libertarians.

Essentially, there is nothing new here.  Pope Francis has said the exact same thing as previous popes, going back 120 years to Leo XIII, with the only difference being that Francis has said it with more force, and more stinging clarity.  From this we can learn that the supply-side ("trickle down") economic model is essentially incompatible with Roman Catholicism. Now before Keynesians and socialists throw a victory parade, the pope went on to speak against their solutions as long-term economic models. He sees them more as temporary measures in times of crisis and that's about it. Rather, the economic model the pope supports, while not giving it a specific name, is based in the Church's teaching of: Solidarity + Subsidiarity = Catholic Economics.  He is not the first pope to talk about this, and he won't be the last.  The one and only economic model ever developed based on papal teaching is distributism.  While it is unfitting for a pope to openly declare himself of a particular economic mindset, I think it's fair to say that the only economic model based on 120 years of papal teaching is probably the one the pope subscribes to.  I believe the pope is a distributist.


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Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!

NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR
ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Revive the Catholic Church


Fast forward the feed to about 29:30 to see my chat with Voris.

Now that I have your attention with the title of this article, please forgive me for being presumptuous.  I am, after all, just a convert.  However, I think it is my history as a Protestant that gives me a glimpse of insight into this topic.  Why?  I think it's because I've seen allot, from different strains of Christian tradition, so I've learnt a bit.  I also know what it was that attracted me to the Catholic Church, and I think that too gives me a glimpse of insight into this topic.  You can take my words here for whatever their worth to you.  Dismiss them if you like.  That's fine.  It's no skin off my back.  Or you can listen.  That's fine too.  I hope you will

Last week Michael Voris invited me back onto his Mic'd Up talk show to discuss some comments I wrote on his Facebook page.  The segment begins at about 29:30 on the video feed above.  Some Catholics take issue with Voris over his hard-hitting style of reporting.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion.  However, I've had a few off-camera conversations with him, and I can personally testify that he is a kind man with a passionate love for our Lord and Lady.  His Mic'd Up program is a different format, wherein he gives guests time to speak and takes a more "toned down" and methodical approach to addressing topics.  I think it's good talk show programming, and as Catholics, we shouldn't be afraid to discuss these matters with frankness.  Sometimes some things just need to be said, and clergy shouldn't be afraid of harsh criticism. Even the pope has thanked and complimented his most harsh critics.  If you're a priest or bishop, I would encourage you to follow the pope's example and have a conversation with Voris some time on this talk show format.  I guarantee you will be treated well, much better than in the mainstream news, and probably have a good discussion too!

All that aside, Voris is giving me air time to promote my book and my blog, so I am grateful for that.  The topic of this particular segment was Protestants and Cafeteria Catholics, specifically what they have in common.  However, it's the second part of that segment that I want to write about here.  Voris asked me if there was anything particular the Catholic Church could do to attract more Protestants, and I'm really glad he asked this, because I believe that this question is one in the same with another one.  What can be done to revive the Catholic Church in general?  The questions might be different, but I believe the answer is the same.  I gave him basically two steps, which must be done together, that I KNOW will work.  I know because I've seen it in action.  Not only will they attract more Protestants into the Catholic Church, but they will revive Catholics already sitting in the pews, and bring back those who have left.  Here it is...

STEP 1
Start expounding on the Scriptures from the pulpit.  The days of regular topical homilies are over.  There is a time and place for them of course, but they shouldn't be the general rule any more.  People are hungry for the Scriptures.  They want to understand them, and Catholics especially want to understand them in the context of official Church teaching.  This is not difficult.  Some pastors might even consider this easier than topical homilies.  Here is how you do an expository homily.  You simply take the day's gospel reading, and re-read it from the pulpit, line by line.  As you do, you expand on each verse, pulling out context from the other readings, psalter, collects, Catechism, additional Scripture passages, history and personal experience.  That's it!  When you've finished going through the gospel reading, you're done.  If you have extra time left over, you can further expand on a particular topic from the reading, doctrine or Church tradition that might be related somehow.  If you're finding yourself running short on time, cut back your expansion on lesser important verses.  It's a simple method of teaching.  It works, and Lord Almighty! It fills the pews!  The trick is not to get too technical.  You've got to keep these lessons simple and blunt.  That's how Christ and his apostles taught, and that's what people need to hear.  I cannot stress this last part enough.  DON'T GIVE YOUR PERSONAL OPINION.  Stick to what the Church teaches, and tell people WHY the Church teaches it that way.  You'll find that preparing homilies for this kind of teaching method can be challenging at times, because it does require you to do your homework.  You've got to dig into the Scriptures and the Catechism.  It's a lot of work, but it pays off in the long run, and if you save those homilies, you can recycle them (adding subtle variations as needed) when those readings come around again.  Once word gets out of this teaching method, it will draw attention.  I've been to churches where there is standing room only, and the pastor didn't do anything different.  All he did was expository teaching from the Scriptures.  The sheep are hungry, shepherds. They want to be fed God's written word.  So feed it to them already! 
STEP 2
Go back and recoup the pre-conciliar traditions lost in the hurried (and sometimes hasty) reforms after the Second Vatican Council.  There is a lot of great stuff in there!  I'm not talking about celebrating a Extraordinary Form (Tridentine) Latin Mass.  Let the experts deal with that.  No, I'm talking about going back and looking into the traditions and ritual of the Traditional Latin Mass, pulling out those things that can be worked into the new mass, and start doing them!  Let's start with celebrating the mass ad orientem (verses Dominum).  Bring back the bells and regular use of incense.  Once the choir can master it, try reintroducing a little Gregorian chant here and there.  Then, put some kneelers down before the priest during communion, giving people the clear option to kneel and receive on the tongue.  Why do these things?  Because these traditions, and many more, serve as bulwarks to Catholic teaching.  They reinforce what is taught in the readings and behind the pulpit.  They solidify Catholic identity, and in the most serendipitous sense, they actually attract Protestants.  Trust me, I know what I'm talking about here.  Protestants don't visit a Catholic mass expecting to witness a Lutheran-style service.  They want to see something overtly Catholic, and unapologetically so.  That's why they visit.  Believe me, if they wanted to see a Lutheran-style church service, they would just go to a Lutheran church.  If they wanted to see an Evangelical-style praise and worship jam, with drums and electric guitars, they would just go to an Evangelical church.  Nothing is stopping them.  They're Protestants!  No, there is only one reason, and one reason only, why Protestants visit Catholic churches, and that is because they expect to see, hear or smell something Catholic.  So let's provide it already!

That's basically it folks.  That's this convert's remedy for what ails the Catholic Church today.  I know it will work because I've seen it work -- over and over again.  I know it will bring people into the pews and keep them there.  I know it will make parishes grow.  Like I said, take it for what it's worth to you.  I am just a convert, and maybe a presumptuous one at that, but I've been around the block a few times.  I've seen some stuff.  Dismiss it all if you like.  It makes no difference to me.  I'm watching this method (or something very similar) being employed in Latin Mass communities and they are flourishing.  I'm seeing something similar happen in the Anglo Catholic ordinariate communities, and again, they are starting to grow.  Do what you like, but while you do, please keep this article bookmarked, or maybe print it off.  As I suspect you might find it useful someday.

I first learnt about Step 1 as an Evangelical Protestant.  One of the most successful Evangelical denominations on the West Coast employs this method of expository teaching from the Scriptures.  That's basically it.  They're not doing anything different from other Evangelical churches, and yet their services are often packed to standing room only.  This method of teaching brings people in because society is hungry to understand the Scriptures.  A Catholic adaptation of this method of teaching will be superior to the Protestant version, because you see, a Catholic adaptation will be 100% based in the gospels.  The other readings from the mass (as well as various citations used at the pastor's discretion) are used as reference to elaborate points from the gospels.  Believe it or not, Evangelical Protestant churches actually don't spend as much time on the gospels.  They focus primarily on the Gospel According to John, and then spend the rest of their time exploring other books.  Months on end can go by, in an Evangelical church, without so much as one word read from the gospels.  The gospels are studied when they get to it, and with so much in the Bible, it can take a while for that to happen.  A Catholic adaptation of the expository method would be vastly superior because it is gospel based in every mass.

I learnt about Step 2 in the Episcopal Church, watching Evangelicals like myself, on the Canterbury trail, looking for a connection to ancient Christianity.  I've also witnessed it confirmed again in the Catholic Church, watching the rapid growth of the Traditional Latin Mass since 2007 and the Anglo Catholic ordinariates in the last few years.  This is in addition to reading about the growth of regular Novus Ordo parishes, that have implemented the "hermeneutic of continuity," by celebrating the new form of the mass according to the old rituals.

When Voris asked me about how Protestants are entering the Catholic Church, I reiterated that in spite of all the Catholic Church's problems in recent decades, this is actually the BEST time in history (the last 500 years of history) for the Church to attract more Protestants to return home to Rome.  Here is the reason why I said that...

All the evidence coming out of Evangelicalism lately, tells us the same story, and it's something that the rest of us are only just now starting to learn about.  Evangelicalism is in trouble -- serious trouble.  It risks collapsing within the next 10 years just as quickly as it rose onto the world scene.  Here is the problem.  To put it bluntly, Evangelical spirituality runs about a mile wide, but only about an inch deep.  Young Evangelicals in their teens and 20s now, are beginning to become disillusioned.  They want something with more depth.  They want a Church more concerned with social issues in addition to being pro-life.  They want an end to the science verses religion debate.  They want a Church that can accept their homosexual friends, without "gay bashing," and yet still stand for the Christian institution of heterosexual matrimony.  They want a Church that can handle the tough questions in life, without just giving wrote answers, but really engage deep enquiries.  Most importantly, they're not interested in the typical liberal mumbo-jumbo of skirting the issues, not really addressing the questions, and resorting to syncretist relativism as a solution for everything. This upcoming generation is seeking deep answers to deep questions, and that's something that a "Bible Only" Evangelical church just can't provide.  Because you see, providing these things requires a sound and stable theology based not only on Scripture but in thousands of years of Tradition as well.  It's something that only an ancient Church can provide.  They recognise that, and that's why they are increasingly attracted to Catholic liturgy, while leaving the rock guitar worship bands behind.

Some of you will find this shocking, but all the data is there.  Here is just one article of many.  More can be read here, here and here.  Though you might never know it, looking at the size of the multi-million dollar mega-churches, Evangelicalism is in serious trouble.  The very thing that happened to mainstream Protestantism is about to happen to modern Evangelicalism too.  In 10 years time, the number of grey heads in the mega-churches will begin to increase exponentially.  Today's Evangelicals are getting older, and there will soon be fewer and fewer young people to replace them.  The war of attrition will widen, spreading from mainstream Protestantism into the Evangelical denominations.  Some Evangelical churches will undoubtedly embrace liberalism in a vain attempt to win younger converts.  Just like the mainstream Protestant churches however, this will backfire, causing a more rapid decline.  Other Evangelical churches will stick to conservative Protestant theology, but will find adaptation very difficult.  In the end, the only thing that will save Evangelicalism from imploding completely will be an embrace of extra-Biblical traditions.  Most likely, the traditions they will choose, if not Catholic, will be Messianic Jewish in nature.  I know some of you will find this difficult to imagine, but you have to understand, that over the last two decades, a number of individual Evangelicals went through this process on a private level, as they began to move toward converting to Catholicism.  Likewise, what happened to individual Evangelicals over the last couple decades, is now starting to transfer into a generational thing, wherein an entire demographic of young people is starting to go through the exact same process.  There has been inklings of this movement popping up here and there for the past 10 years.  The Charismatic Episcopal Church is one such example, wherein Evangelicals and Pentecostals have adopted Catholic liturgy and incorporated all three traditions together.  While such denominations are a novelty, they do serve as a sign of a growing hunger in the Evangelical culture.  It is a hunger that is only going to grow in the years ahead, as young people become increasingly dissatisfied with Evangelicalism in general.

The Catholic Church is poised to stand in the gap and position herself to receive these young searching souls over the next few decades, but I can tell you that isn't going to happen with contemporary praise and worship music.  It's not going to happen with watered-down topical homilies designed not to offend.  It's not going to happen by dispensing of Catholic ritual and making the mass look as Protestant as possible.  The way the average Catholic parish looks now, most of these Evangelical refugees are liable to skip right on past the Catholic Church and into some form of continuing Anglicanism, or else they will just go over to Eastern Orthodoxy.  It's already starting to happen, and for Catholic parishes, it is an opportunity missed.  To position themselves properly, to receive the mass exodus of Evangelical youth; Catholic parishes are going to have to adopt the two steps I outlined above.  This is what will attract them, and this is exactly what faithful Catholics need as well.  This is how to revive the Catholic Church.  That's my advice.  Take it for whatever it's worth to you.

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Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!

NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR
ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is Pope Francis Too Liberal ?


I post this today, not to get into politics, but to point out something related to Catholicism...

Sarah Palin, former Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican Party, and icon of American Neoconservatism, commented that she thought Pope Francis sounded a little too liberal for her. To her credit, she did say this may be tainted by the news media so she will not judge with any certainty. (We should give her credit for that.) I think however, this comment is reflective of a particular problem in American society.

We tend to measure people by sound bites and then compare them to our own ideology. Sarah Palin was raised Catholic, but she and her parents left the Church when she was in her pre-teen years. Usually when Catholics do this, it is because they've judged the Church through sound bites. They've taken little snippets of Church teaching and/or practice, and compared them with their own ideology. Finding a discrepancy, they leave the Church, rather than dig deeper into Church teaching with humility, and try to conform their own ideology to the teachings of Christ.

Here in Palin's assessment of Pope Francis, we see a similar pattern. Granted, the news media is doing a terrible job representing the pope's message, but it's also fair to say the pope has opened himself up to this with some very candid "off the cuff" interviews. I have spent a great deal of time reviewing the words of Pope Francis, and while he does phrase them in ways that make me uncomfortable, I have yet to find anything that could be categorised as unorthodox or "liberal." What I see in the pope's comments is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is neither liberal nor conservative by American standards. It is simply the gospel. To a liberal ideologue, the gospel of Christ will seem too conservative. To a conservative ideologue, the gospel of Christ will seem too liberal. That's just the way it goes when we compare the gospel of Christ to our own human ideologies. The way to be open and receptive to the teachings of Christ is to NOT be an ideologue. We need to put aside our personal and political ideologies and just be open and receptive to what Christ and his Church are teaching us.

I don't put any blame on Sarah Palin for this. She too is a victim of a much larger problem in American culture, and it exists on both the Left and the Right. We can only speculate about which particular aspect of Pope Francis' comments she found too "liberal" for her. Was it one of those comments completely misrepresented by the media, such as Atheists can go to heaven? Was it a comment he made, but then quoted by the media out of context, such as when it comes to gays "who am I to judge?" Or was it a comment related to economics, which the media probably got right, and would most certainly sound too "liberal" to a Neoconservative's ears? Maybe it's all of the above. I don't know.

 There is not much I can say about that which the news media has misrepresented. Pope Francis has always emphasised the human element of sinners, and in this aspect he is simply emulating Christ....

Forgive the sin, do not judge the sinner, but go and sin no more. 

 This concept seems to be incomprehensible to many American liberals, who cannot distinguish between sin (action) and sinner (human). For them, to forgive means to condone, and that is that. So they forgive the sin, do not judge the sinner, and stop there. The "go and sin no more" part escapes them. Meanwhile, many American conservatives tend to get along just fine with the "go and sin no more" part, but have difficulty with the "do not judge the sinner" part. I think our ideologies hinder our ability to fully grasp the gospel of Christ.

Now when it comes to economic comments the pope has made, what can I say? The popes have railed against the popular economic constructs of both capitalism and socialism for over 100 years now. What Pope Francis has said is nothing new. During the 1970s and 80's, while socialism was the greatest threat, Pope John Paul II spent a good deal of time combating that. During the 1990s and early 2000s, while capitalism was making strides, the focus of Pope Bendedict XVI shifted against that. Go back all the way to the 1890s, and you'll see that Pope Leo XIII railed against both capitalism and socialism together. The popes' position on economics, for over a century now, has been doggedly distributist, which is based on both solidarity and subsidiarity working together in synthesis. It puts both capitalism and socialism in their place as oppressive systems that hurt the family and the little guy. To a liberal, distributism sounds too conservative. To a conservative, distributism sounds too liberal. As a distributist myself, I have been derided as both a socialist and a capitalist. Go figure. This is what ideology does to people I guess.

UPDATE 11-15-2013...
Sarah Palin has recently apologised for her remarks about Pope Francis. This blogger wants to thank Mrs. Palin for her kind gesture, but also assure her that no apology was necessary.  She stated openly in her initial remarks that she was reserving judgement and didn't trust the media's representation. I thought her initial remarks were a fair representation of her first impression. It's not her fault that her first impression was created by a news media with an agenda. Nothing she said was degrading or anti-Catholic. No apology was necessary.  It's all good Sarah, and thanks for reading my blog. ;)

------------------------------------------------------

Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!
NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Catholic Traditionalism versus Fundamentalism

A Traditional Latin Mass (Vetus Ordo) Celebrated at St. Agnes Cathedral in Springfield Missouri in 2010
Celebrant is  Rev. Jeffery A. Fasching, the Most Rev. James V. Johnston kneels in Choir
Photo by John Kelly
NOTE: This article pertains primarily to Catholicism in the English-speaking world.  The situation can be quite different in non-Anglophone countries.

Traditionalism and Fundamentalism; yes there is a difference.  This is most especially the case in Catholicism. We see it in Protestantism too, but in Catholicism the line is more clearly drawn, and it is a line based in attitude.

Traditionalism is when Catholics cling to tradition, and overall, this is a very good thing.  It helps to keep the Church connected to her past, and in the end, it keeps her identity clear.  From the 1970s through early 2000s, there was a shortage of traditionalists in the Catholic Church, and the Church suffered because of this.  Thankfully, that is starting to change.  The trend toward returning to traditional practices really picked up in the late 1990s to early 2000s, however, because many priests and bishops had adopted a hostile attitude toward tradition, many traditionalists had nowhere to go but to illicit SSPX chapels and schismatic sedevacantist groups.  Consequently, there was a mix between what I will henceforth refer to as "traditionalists" and "fundamentalists."  Traditionalists mingled with the fundamentalists and vice versa, because they had nowhere else to go, creating a traditional-fundamental soup in those dioceses were the bishop was hostile to the traditional Latin mass and other traditional practises.

Fundamentalism in the Catholic world actually has a whole lot in common with fundamentalism in the Protestant world, and I'm sure some Catholic fundamentalists will object to me using that term in reference to them, and shriek at me making such a comparison.  However, I am very familiar with fundamentalism from my experience as a Protestant.  I know it like the back of my hand, and I can smell it a mile away. Fundamentalism, in a Catholic sense, is when a Catholic basically adopts an attitude of thinking he's more Catholic than the pope.  I mean this quite literally.  The pope is often referred to as a 'heretic' or a 'schismatic' or an 'antipope', even though the person making these accusations has no ecclesiastical authority to do so. (More often than not, these are laymen.)  The mainstream Catholic Church is often seen as a 'false church' of heresy, and the only 'true Catholics' are those who adhere to their sectarian groups and mentality. A good example of this can often be found in the SSPX (Society of Saint Pius X).  Now it's not fair to paint all persons within this group a Catholic fundamentalists, but I think it is fair to say the SSPX fosters this sort of attitude among many of its members.  It is an attitude of superiority, wherein one thinks one is 'more Catholic,' or even worse, 'more legitimately Catholic' simply because one clings to the older traditions of the Church.  However, it runs deeper than that.  There is a doctrinal division too, wherein Catholic fundamentalists become a magisterium unto themselves, believing they are the only 'authentic' interpreters of Catholic teaching and tradition, often to the exclusion of the real magisterium of the Church.  Even Rome is presumed to be 'n error' about these things.  That being said, there is always room for disagreement over some pastoral issues within the Catholic Church, but this isn't what I'm talking about here.  I'm not talking about two Catholics, who both submit to the authority of Rome and the local bishop, but have a vehement disagreement over how a certain Church teaching or discipline should be interpreted.  I'm not talking about Catholics who have different liturgical preferences and think the Church has gone too far one way or another. I'm not even talking about Catholics who say the pope is wrong on this issue or that.  Again, there is room for disagreement within the pale of orthodoxy.  No!  What I'm talking about here is entirely different.  I'm talking about a Catholic, who may have a disagreement with the Church (over this issue or that), and then takes it to the point where he pronounces the Church to be false, or having been 'taken over' by the forces of evil, to the point where this Catholic feels he can no longer be a regular member of the Church, but instead must live and worship apart from the mainstream entirely.  This is when traditionalism goes beyond traditionalism and becomes fundamentalism.  The SSPX is not alone in flirting with this kind of fundamentalist attitude.  There are other organisations even more involved: such as the SSPV (Society of Saint Pius V) for example, which is outright sedevacantist, along with the CMIQ (Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen), and the MHFM (Most Holy Family Monastery) among others.  While it would be unfair and (so far) inaccurate to classify the SSPX as a sedevacantist organisation, it is however accurate to say that many sedevacantists frequent SSPX chapels and mingle in this traditionalist-fundamentalist soup. Hopefully that will eventually change, if or when the SSPX fully reconciles with Rome.

All of this changed in July of 2007, when Pope Benedict XVI issued Summorum Pontificum.  To any non-Traditional Catholic reading this, pay attention here, because I'm going to reveal something big to you.  No recent document of the Church has done more to hinder the fundamentalist movement in Catholicism than this document.  If you don't like Catholic fundamentalism, than you better love Summorum Pontificum, and here is why...

Summorum Pontificum is the papal motu proprio that liberalised the regular celebration of the pre-1970 Traditional Latin Mass.  It brought the Missal of 1962 back into the mainstream of Catholicism as the 'Vetus Ordo' (old order) or the 'Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.'  This means that all lay Catholics, anywhere in the world, have a sacred RIGHT under canon law to request, and be accommodated with, a Traditional Latin Mass to a stable and consistent group.  It also means that every Catholic priest, everywhere in the world, has the sacred right under canon law to celebrate this form of the mass (privately), assuming he is competent to do so, without permission from his local bishop or ordinary.  Contemporary or 'modernist' Catholics were initially livid about this, and some of them still are, but I assert their frustration is misplaced, and in fact, they should rejoice at this decision, because it has done more to undermine Catholic Fundamentalism than anything else.  What Pope Benedict XVI did here was pull the rug out from underneath the Catholic Fundamentalist movement.  You see, prior to 2007, Catholic Fundamentalists had a virtual monopoly on the Traditional Latin Mass, especially in those areas where the local bishop and priests where hostile to the older traditions of the Church.  What these bishops and priests didn't realise, was that their hostility toward older traditions was actually the very fuel feeding the Catholic Fundamentalist movement. Those Catholics who were merely 'traditionalists,' and not fundamentalist in attitude, had nowhere else to go, but to a local illicit chapel, where they could be gradually indoctrinated with fundamentalist propaganda.  In short, the greatest thing fuelling the rise of Catholic Fundamentalism was the very hostility toward tradition that some contemporary bishops and priests were using in a futile attempt to quash it.  Here is the fatal flaw that many contemporary or 'modernist' bishops made.  They failed to understand that fundamentalism is 100% reactionary in nature.  It is a response to provocation, nothing more and nothing less.  By creating a provocation, such as eliminating all Latin masses in a diocese for example, the bishop actually creates the perfect conditions necessary for the rise of Catholic Fundamentalism in his diocesan territory.  Nowhere was this more evident than in my own local diocese, wherein the previous bishop (presumably in a misguided attempt to quash fundamentalism) did just that. He banned traditional Latin masses all throughout the diocese.  It wasn't long after that a local SSPX chapel sprang up, and grew, and grew, and grew!  I suspect it would likely be nearly a mega-church by now, where it not for Pope Benedict XVI's intervention in 2007 with Summorum Pontificum.  By 2008 a new bishop was installed in the diocese, and he immediately provided for a traditional Latin mass to be celebrated in his own cathedral almost daily.  As a result, the growth of the local SSPX chapel came to a grinding halt.  The damage was done by the unwitting actions of the previous bishop, but is now controlled (for the time being) by the actions of the new bishop.  In short, all Catholics must learn a lesson from this, because the exact same thing can be seen in the Protestant world. You don't stop fundamentalism by attacking tradition.  In fact, that is the worst possible thing you can do, because you see, fundamentalism is entirely 100% reactionary.  If you create a provocation, you will get a reaction.  The way you stop fundamentalism, contain it, and limit it's growth, is by embracing tradition!  For heaven's sake people, learn this!  Burn this into your brains!  A Catholic Fundamentalist is no different than a Protestant Fundamentalist in attitude and action.  You want to stop fundamentalism -- embrace tradition!

As a general rule, there is a simple litmus test that can be applied to determine if a Catholic is a fundamentalist or merely a traditionalist.  Protestants don't have this luxury in identifying their fundamentalists this way, as they don't have the necessary structures.  It's called the full-communion rule.  This is how you know.  If the Catholic in question is very traditional in nature, and exclusively attends the traditional Latin mass, but does so in a parish or cathedral that is under the bishop, or else a traditionalist society that is approved and regularised by Rome, than what you have here is probably just a Traditional Catholic -- not a fundamentalist.  Traditionalists are absolutely not threat to the Catholic Church.  Indeed, they are the spice and life of the Church, because they keep her connected to her past and very identity.  They are humble. They submit to proper ecclesiastical authorities.  They are in full communion with the pope.  Such people should be celebrated not ostracised.

If however, the Catholic in question is very traditional in nature, exclusively attends the traditional Latin mass, but does so in a parish that is neither approved nor regularised by Rome (when a fully regularised mass is available nearby), than what you have here (in most cases) is a fundamentalist -- not a traditionalist.  This is an extremely important distinction, because the term 'radical traditionalist' or 'rad-trad' is often incorrectly applied to these people.  Because you see, there is nothing 'traditional' about breaking communion with Rome, or worshipping at a mass that is neither approved nor regularised.  A mass that is illicit is anything but 'traditional'.  It is the very antithesis of 'traditionalism'.  Fundamentalist -- yes.  Traditionalist -- no!  Not even close.  I assert if Pope Pius X were alive as pontiff today, he would make many changes to today's Church, but simultaneously, I assert he would excommunicate the fundamentalist society that bears his name (SSPX), along with anyone who continued to frequent their masses, for failing to maintain obedience to the pope. No sir, there is nothing 'traditional' about bucking the authority of Rome. I assert he would not lift this excommunication until the SSPX was fully reconciled and regularised within the Church.

What Pope Benedict XVI did with Summorum Pontificum was brilliant, and he will remembered by future generations as one of the greatest minds in Church history.  By regularising the traditional Latin mass throughout the Church again, he effectively put an end to the virtual monopoly fundamentalists had on Traditional Catholicism.  He opened wide the doors of the Church to Traditional Catholics who do not fit in with the fundamentalists they had previously associated with in illicit chapels and groups.

So let's start using terminology correctly, and reclaiming 'traditionalism' as something that is welcome within the Catholic Church.  Traditional Catholics who remain humble and submissive to the pope and bishops should be given praise and support, even if you're a priest or layperson who wants nothing to do with this way of expressing Catholicism.  Likewise, let's start identifying those who operate outside the Church as what they are -- fundamentalists.  As their behaviour is strikingly similar to fundamentalism within Protestantism, even to the point of declaring the pope a 'heretic'.  Finally, it's time to stop confusing traditionalists with fundamentalists.  There is a difference, and it's insulting to traditionalists within the Catholic Church to classify them with the same word used to describe fundamentalists outside the Church.  It is also counter-productive.  If you're a Catholic who doesn't care for fundamentalism, than stop calling it 'traditionalism'.  It is not the same.  Stop calling fundamentalist 'traditionalists.  They are not the same.  There is a difference. Traditionalists operate inside the Church, fundamentalists do not.  Let's start recognising that please!

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Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!
NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE
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Monday, November 04, 2013

Nihil Obstat & Imprimatur Granted to "Catholicism for Protestants"

I am pleased to report that I received a warm and cordial letter from Bishop James V. Johnston last week, informing me that my book "Catholicism for Protestants" has received a Nihil Obstat from his censor librorum, and the bishop has granted his Imprimatur.

NIHIL OBSTAT: Reverend Allan Saunders, Censor Librorum.
IMPRIMATUR: Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr., Bishop of Springfield-Cape Girardeau.

So "Catholicism for Protestants" is now about as official as it can get.  Readers can rest assured the book contains no errors that contradict the teachings of the Catholic Church.  That's not me saying that.  That's the official pronouncement of a Catholic bishop and his censor librorum.  My hope is that this will remove any hesitation on the part of Catholic educators to use this book as a tool for educating the faithful in areas where some Protestants mount relentless anti-Catholic attacks.  What makes this book a little different is its size and format.

For starters, it's only 106 print pages long.  Most people can easily get through it in a night or two.  One Protestant reader actually told me she read the entire book in about two hours!  (I think that's a record.)  Another Protestant reader just told me recently that it was the best religion book she ever read.  The book is designed for Catholics and Protestants alike.  For Protestants, it serves as an educational and evangelistic tool, that breaks down barriers.  It employs the "correct and redirect" strategy, correcting common Protestant misconceptions about Catholicism, and then redirecting the Protestant reader toward asking the "right questions" that lead to a better understanding of the Catholic Church and a desire for more knowledge.  The whole thing is written in a "question and answer" format, similar to the old Baltimore Catechism, so information can be absorbed in short segments without overwhelming the reader.  In short, when it comes to education and evangelism, the book works!  It gives Protestants the solid foundation they need to dispel misinformation, and seek more answers about Catholicism when they're ready to move forward.

The book also serves as an excellent refresher course for Catholics.  Not only does it provide answers and evidence that soundly refutes Protestant challenges to Catholic Christianity, but it also functions as a simple course in systematic theology, leading the reader through a series of questions and answers that teach them about the nature of the Church, the sacraments, the Saints and the divine Person of Jesus Christ.  Catholics are reporting that this book not only refreshes their knowledge base about Catholicism, but it is also leading them into deeper reflection of Catholic teaching and what it means in their personal lives.

From now on, the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur will be featured on the inside cover of every copy of "Catholicism for Protestants," assuring that this book is "safe" and "approved" for Catholic reading. The book is available in paperback, Kindle, eBook and iBook.  Links are below...

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Click Image to Learn More
Highly recommended by priests and catechists, "Catholicism for Protestants" is a Biblical explanation of Roman Catholic Christianity as told by Shane Schaetzel -- an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism.  The book is concise and formatted in an easy-to-read Question & Answer catechism style.  It addresses many of the common questions Protestants have about Catholicism. It is ideal for Protestants seeking more knowledge about the Catholic Church, and for Catholics seeking a quick refresher course on fundamental Catholic teaching. It's an excellent book for Catholics and Protestants alike!
NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR

ORDER YOUR COPY HERE
Publisher Direct | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Kindle | eBook | iBookstore