Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Protestantism for Catholics

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In my book "Catholicism for Protestants" I attempted to help Protestants better understand the Catholic Church and Catholic teaching by answering common questions Protestants ask. In this article I will attempt to help Catholics better understand Protestantism by giving a brief overview.

The above timeline chart can look intimidating at first glance, and while it is a useful reference, it's not all that important that it be memorised. It's more for reference sake to help the reader understand where the various Protestant movements began and how they eventually formed the various denominations within Protestantism today.  The most important thing Catholics should understand about Protestantism is that it's not a monolith. There are currently thousands of Protestant denominations, affiliations and sects. Open up any phone book and you're sure to spot dozens of them right there in your own town.  However, what is also important to understand about Protestants is that, like Catholics, they accept the Trinity.  This is what distinguishes them from other religions that reject the Trinity but still cling to a "Christian" identity. Often such religions are mistaken for Protestant denominations. They are not. Rather, they are separate religions all together. Since there are so many Protestant (Trinitarian) denominations that numbering them would be impossible here, I'll list the more popular non-Trinitarian (non-Protestant) religions instead. For example; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) do not believe in the Trinity, therefore they are not Protestant.  The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (Jehovah's Witness) do not believe in the Trinity, therefore they are not Protestant either.  Oneness Pentecostals (unlike regular Pentecostals) reject the Trinity as well, therefore they are not Protestant. Christian Scientists reject the Trinity and are therefore not Protestant. These are some of the larger non-Trinitarian (non-Protestant) religions in North America. It is helpful to understand that these are separate religions all together, and are not merely "denominations" of Protestant Christianity.

By now you can see the Trinity is the key to the whole thing.  The Catholic Church makes it clear that Protestants are united to Catholics by virtue of our common Trinitarian baptism (Catechism 232-233, 265, 813, 818, 1271), as well as our common Trinitarian belief.  This means we both understand God the same way. We may have differences about many different things, but the most important things we have in common. Beliefs about Jesus Christ, his divinity, incarnation, sinless life, and atoning death, all stem from the Trinitarian understanding of God. When people believe in the Trinity, their beliefs about these things will be held in common. They may disagree about small details, but the basic premise of everything in regards to God and the Gospel will be essentially the same. However, when people do not believe in the Trinity, other basic beliefs about God and the Gospel will change as well. So to summarise, Protestants and Catholics hold the Trinitarian belief in common, and for this reason, the Catholic Church demands that Protestants be respected with the titles of "Christian" and "brothers" in the Lord (Catechism 232-233, 818, 1271).

Here we see that the Catholic Church most plainly defines the word "Christian" with belief in the Trinity (Catechism 232, 1223).  Indeed, the word "Catholic" was also used around the end of the first century to differentiate between those Christians who held to the "whole and complete" (i.e. "catholic" and "Trinitarian") faith of Christianity, versus those that were sectarian and followed beliefs that were either exclusive or novelty. Again, it all centred around the Trinity. Those who held to the Trinitarian belief in God were called "Catholic Christians," and those who rejected the Trinity were called something else. So we should see Protestants as holding on to the core of catholic theology by retaining their Trinitarian belief system. We could call them "catholic," with a small "c," because they at least retain this core Catholic teaching. However, they "protest" various other Catholic beliefs (such as the sacraments, the communion of Saints, the papacy, etc.), and because of this we call them Protest-ants, meaning "those (small "c" catholic Christians) who protest."

It's important to get a full grasp of this, because you must understand that if a Protestant seeks to enter the Catholic Church, the Catholic Church will refuse to baptise him/her. Why? Because according to Catholic teaching, he (or she) has already received a Catholic Christian baptism, even though it wasn't performed by a Catholic priest or within the Catholic Church (Catechism 1272). Protestant baptisms are fully recognised, because they are Trinitarian you see. So the shocking truth is that every single baptised Protestant out there, because of his/her Trinitarian baptism, already has one foot into the door of the Roman Catholic Church. He/she may not be a member of the Catholic Church. Indeed he/she may not be in "full communion" with Rome, but he/she does have the right to enter into full communion (join) the Roman Catholic Church without being "re-baptised." I say this as a practising Catholic who was baptised in the Lutheran Church. My wife, who is also Catholic, was baptised in the Methodist Church. Neither one of us were "re-baptised" upon entering the Catholic Church. We simply supplied our certificates of Protestant baptism to our local Catholic parish, and "presto!" they registered us as having already received the Catholic sacrament of Christian baptism. This process has been repeated millions of times, with millions of other Protestant converts to Catholicism. From there we went on to receive the Catholic sacraments of reconciliation, confirmation and first communion.

So with this knowledge, it should change the way we Catholics think of Protestants. They are, in a sense, catholics (small "c") in diaspora. They retain the core of the Catholic Christian faith, but they are no longer fully within the fold of the Roman Catholic Church.

Sometimes I use an old Catechism from the 1950s to teach my children. In this old family Catechism there is a wonderful illustration of a sheep pen with many sheep inside. Jesus stands at the door of the sheep pen, calling his sheep in. The sheep pen is labelled "The Catholic Church." Outside the sheep pen are many more sheep. These too are Christians, but they are not protected like those in the pen. While they graze in open fields, seemingly free from every constraint, wolves are watching them nearby, and dangerous thunderstorms approach on the horizon. Yes, these are Christians who believe in the Trinity, but they simply do not have the same protection as (large "C") Catholic Christians who are safe within the Catholic Church.

So if Protestants are really (small "c") catholic Christians who just protest certain teachings of the Catholic Church, then what are we to think of their various churches and houses of worship? There can only be one Church right? Yes, that is true. There is only one Church founded by Jesus Christ -- the Catholic Church -- and it is whole and complete (undivided) in and of itself. This is why the Catechism refers to Protestant churches primarily as "communities" of like-minded Protestants (Catechism 819). The term "churches" is reserves specifically for the Eastern Orthodox, who are essentially Catholic in a full sense, having only a political dispute with Rome. Sometimes the different rites within the Catholic Church are also called "churches," but again, the word "churches" is always reserved for those retaining all of the original teachings and sacraments of the universal Catholic Church. The Catechism does recognise the work of the Holy Spirit within Protestant communities, but at the same time, it does not regard them as "churches" in the proper sense of the Greek word ecclesia (ἐκκλησία). This is because they were not founded by Jesus Christ in the first century and they lack the fullness of the sacraments that Christ gave to his Church. Only the Church founded by Jesus Christ in the first century has all of the sacraments and therefore can rightfully be called "church" ecclesia (ἐκκλησία). So what are Protestant "churches" then? As I said above, they are man-made communities of like-mined Protestants -- organisations, societies or clubs. God can use them, and indeed he does use them, in the salvation of souls, but they are not part of the actual "church" ecclesia (ἐκκλησία) founded by Jesus Christ, and they lack the fullness of faith and sacraments that God intended us to have.

So then, what are we to make of the historic teaching that "outside of the [Catholic] Church there is no salvation?" The Catechism tells us that this means everything we know about God, Jesus Christ and salvation comes to us through the Catholic Church. When we are baptised in the name of the Trinity, we ALL enter the Catholic Church; fully if we are Catholic, and partially if we are Protestant (Catechism 846). The Catholic Church gave us the Bible. Without the Catholic Church, the Bible simply would not exist in its current form. The Catholic Church alone is the only Church that has maintained the teaching on the Trinity and the Gospel unchanged for 2,000 years. Only the Catholic Church preserved the message of Jesus Christ through the Middle Ages. Everything the Protestants have, that makes them Christian, especially Trinitarian baptism, comes to them directly through the Catholic Church, whether they realise it or not. When they are baptised in the name of the Trinity, they effectively take their first step into the Catholic Church, whether they realise it or not.  Protestants can deny this from now until the end of time and it makes no difference. The historical and spiritual truth is what it is, regardless if they accept it or not. That being said, no person could be saved if, knowing that the Catholic Church is the true Church, he/she chooses to remain outside of it anyway. In other words, God holds us accountable for what we know (Catechism 847). If you know the Catholic Church is the one Church established by Jesus Christ, then you're accountable for what you know. You must join her, or face eternal judgement for failing to. If however, you are ignorant (or unconvinced) of this truth, then God simply holds you accountable for what you know. Most Protestants are ignorant (or unconvinced) of this truth. That however does not excuse them from seeking to learn the truth, as every honest person should always seek to learn truth.

So now that we have defined who Protestants are in relation to Catholics -- they are (small "c") catholics in diaspora -- it may now be helpful to understand who they are in relation to each other.  The subject of the Protestant schisms (Reformation) can be a confusing one, namely because there are so many Protestant denominations, in what seems like an intricate web of lineage and pedigree. To simplify, we could break it down like this.  It all began with two root schisms in the 16th century...
The German Schism -- began with Martin Luther between AD 1517 to 1520. This Augustinian monk's break with the Catholic Church was primarily doctrinal in nature, and initially revolved around the issues of purgatory and justification, but quickly devolved into an attack on the sacraments and the hierarchy of the Church. Tradition came under fire too, and even the Scriptures themselves became subject to Martin Luther's revision. (He altered the wording of one text to fit his theology, and moved entire books out of the established canon of Scripture.) From this German schism came three great movements within Protestantism that primarily took root on the mainland continent of Europe: Lutheranism in 1517, the Anabaptist movement in 1525 and Calvinism in 1536. 
The English Schism -- England would have initially seemed like the most unlikely place for a Protestant schism to begin. England was known as "Mary's Dowry" prior to the Reformation Era, due to its staunch defence of Catholicism and long history of profound Catholic devotion. Politics alone would give birth to the English Schism but within a generation it would devolve into a doctrinal break very similar (though not identical) to the German Schism. King Henry VIII believed he desperately needed a male heir to the throne in order to prevent another civil war in England. He would do literally anything to produce that male heir. Unfortunately, his lawful wife (Catherine of Aragon) was unable to birth a son. Henry requested an annulment from Rome. It was denied. So in AD 1534 he took matters into his own hands. He declared himself the governor of the Church of England (effectively the English "pope") and annulled his own marriage. Henry made no further changes to the Church of England, other than demand that everyone within swear their allegiance to him as their new spiritual head. Thus Henry's Protestantism looked very much like Roman Catholicism with the exception that the pope was replaced with the king of England. What followed over the next generation was an era of religious nastiness. Henry's son only reigned for a short time, before he was replaced by his first daughter through Catherine of Aragon. Queen Mary was a Roman Catholic who attempted to restore England to full-communion with the real pope in Rome. However, she bitterly took vengeance against her father's Protestant supporters, thus earning the epitaph "Bloody Mary." Her cruelty eventually led to a coup that landed Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth I (Henry's second daughter through his second wife Anne Boleyn) on the throne. Queen Elizabeth I was a Protestant who had her father's Act of Supremacy restored, making herself the new governess ("female pope") over the Church of England.  She was heavily influenced by the continental Protestantism of the German Schism. When she assumed the throne she likewise was very cruel to her half-sister's Catholic supporters, even more so actually, thus earning her the epitaph "Bloody Bess." Between Mary and Elizabeth, a great deal of both Catholic and Protestant blood was spilt in England. What was the final result? Roman Catholicism was essentially made illegal in England for about three centuries. The English Schism likewise resulted in three main Protestant Movements -- Anglicanism in 1534, Puritanism in 1558 and Methodism in 1738.
From these two schisms, and their subsequent schism/branches (fractures), come all the main Protestant denominations we have today.  As followers of these two schisms intermingled, new denominations were born from a merger of beliefs. For example, as English Puritans intermingled with German Anabaptists, the Baptist and Congregationalist churches were formed in 1607. The Baptists went on to further divide in subsequent centuries: Southern Baptist Convention in 1845, the National Baptist Convention in 1915 and the American Baptist Church in 1924. Many other Baptist churches continued to splinter out. Also from the Baptists came the Adventist churches in 1844 and the Churches of Christ in 1801.

In North America, most Protestant denominations stem from the English Schism, either directly as in the Methodists and Pentecostals, or indirectly as in the Baptists, Adventists and Churches of Christ. Most of them, either directly or indirectly, can trace their origins back to King Henry VIII, his two competing daughters and the Church of England. There are of course many Protestants in North America that stem from the German Schism too, but these are much smaller in number compared to those that stem from the English Reformation either directly or indirectly.  That being said, both the English and the German schisms can lay claim to the Baptists, Congregationalists, Adventists and Churches of Christ.

Today, knowing the origin of Protestants is only helpful to a small degree. This is because with the 20th century came the influence of Modernism, and with that, so it would seem, all of Protestantism has been divided into two camps -- Conservative and Liberal.  Now when I say "Conservative and Liberal" I don't mean this in a political sense, though that could play a role too. I am primarily speaking of the religious sense. So when I say "Conservative Protestant" what I mean by that is a Protestant who adheres to Protestant Christianity as was historically taught in the past. Thus what they are "conserving" is their historical Protestant belief system. When I say "Liberal Protestant" what I mean by that is a Protestant who does not adhere to Protestantism as was historically taught, but rather clings to innovation and novelty in beliefs and practises, in keeping with the times and the spirit of the age.  In this sense, Conservative and Liberal Protestants can be likened to Traditionalist and Modernist Catholics.  Conservative Protestants being similar to Traditionalist Catholics and Liberal Protestants being similar to Modernist Catholics.

What exists today is really quite a shuffle in religious demographics among Protestants. Most of the newer Protestant denominations (generally Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal) tend to be fairly Conservative, while the older Protestant denominations (such as the Lutheran, Anglican and Methodist for example) often tend to be fairly Liberal.  Over the last 40 years a sizable shift has taken place, as many Protestants have left their older Liberal denominations in favour of newer more Conservative ones.  Conservative Protestants tend to have a lot more in common with Catholicism, especially on social issues, but ironically these tend to be the most susceptible to anti-Catholic propaganda. So reaching them can be a challenge. This is where good apologetics plays a role at breaking down artificial barriers between Catholics and Protestants.

In the end, apologetics can only go so far. The way to reach Protestants is through relationships. Relationships are the best way to generate conversions. While that should be our desire, it shouldn't be our primary focus. Rather, our primary focus should be toward building good friendships and breaking down artificial barriers between us. After that, we should just let the Holy Spirit do his work. Usually, once artificial barriers are broken down with good apologetics, and strong friendships are created, these Protestants tend to become our strongest allies in reaching out to more Protestants. Conversions to the Catholic Church tend to just happen on their own, by the power of the Holy Spirit, here and there as God wishes. There is no need to force the issue, and quite often, trying to force it can drive people away.

I'm often asked by Catholics if they should study Protestant beliefs systems to better prepare for their questions. My answer is always the same -- "NO!"  That is more trouble than it's worth and will be completely unproductive. You see Protestants do not have monochrome beliefs. They are a very eclectic people. There are thousands of Protestant denominations, affiliations and sects, each denoted by its own beliefs system. Trying to master them all would be impossible! I tell Catholics that the best thing to do is study and know your own Catholic Christian faith. When I say "study and know," what I mean by that is never stop learning! Keep digging into your Catholic Bible and Catechism until the day you die. Do Catholic Bible studies. Take Catechism classes. Dig, dig, dig into the Catholic Christian faith! If you want to memorise some things, memorise verses that Protestants have difficulty with. You'll find them here in the apologetics section of this blog, or in my books, or on many other Catholic apologetic websites. Nothing is better than knowing your own faith. In the end, this is the ONLY thing that will prepare you to answer a Protestant's questions when he (or she) asks.

I hope this introduction to Protestantism has been helpful. Understand that this is just a brief overview, but by reading it, you're probably more educated on Protestantism than the average Catholic. The most important things to remember are that Protestants are our "separated Christian brethren," and that the best way to reach out to them is to know your own Catholic Christian faith, and know it well, then don't be afraid to intermingle and build some relationships.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Rebirth of the Russian Empire

Kremlin in Moscow Russia
Throughout the 1990s, South Ossetians aggressively pushed for independence from the Republic of Georgia, ultimately seeking reunification with North Ossetia in Russia.  Then on the 12th of November in 2006, South Ossetia held a referendum which resulted in an overwhelming "yes" vote for independence from Georgia. In response both the Republic of Georgia, and the international community in the West, ignored the voting results. Why? Because a fairly large oil pipeline ran through the region of South Ossetia and the United States was courting Georgia with NATO membership in exchange for access to that pipeline. Then in August of 2008 Russian forces responded to military clashes between Georgia and South Ossetians in what came to be called the Russo-Georgian War. Most Americans were oblivious to the circumstances leading up to the conflict which led to the common (albeit false) perception that Russia simply invaded Georgia and took a section of their territory against the will of the people who lived in South Ossetia. The November 12, 2006 referendum tells a different story. South Ossetia wanted this, voted for it, and welcomed the Russians as "liberators."  Why?  This seems to go against all of our assumptions in the West.

The current conflict in Ukraine also has echoes of familiarity. The most recent general election in Ukraine saw the victory of the ethnically Russian half of the country. It wasn't long before protests and rioting erupted in the capital, mainly sponsored by ethnic Ukrainians, who were supported by the West. After the Ukrainian president was ousted, and the constitution voided in favour of returning to a previous constitution, Russia stepped in to "help maintain security" in the heavily Russian-speaking region of Crimea. While the West considered this an "unlawful act," Ukraine apparently signed a security pact with Russia years prior that permitted the movement of Russian troops inside Ukraine.  Ethnic Russians in the southern peninsula of Crimea overwhelmingly voted "yes" in a referendum to break with Ukraine and rejoin Russia. In what the Ukrainian government and NATO allies termed an "invasion," Russian forces consolidated control to secure the region and uphold the results of the referendum.  Crimeans immediately celebrated.  Why?  Again, this seems to go against all Western assumptions.

It is reasonable to assume that more heavily Russian regions of Ukraine will soon follow Crimea's example. Ukraine is filled with oil and gas pipelines that provide a large portion of energy to Europe. If half (or all) of Ukraine eventually falls under Russian control, that would make Russia a primary supplier of energy to Europe.

So what's happening here? In short, Vladimir Putin is very cleverly rebuilding the Russian Empire. This is not the USSR, mind you. This is not a godless communist regime. This is different. Baptised in secret by his parents during the Cold War, Putin is cleverly playing his cards as an alleged "Christian" leader. On the one hand, he has used his training in the KGB to rise to the top of the criminal food-chain in the post-Soviet Russia that descended into organised crime after the fall of the iron curtain. Putin now keeps the Russian mafia contained and squarely under his thumb as the master kingpin. At the same time he works toward restoring Russia's once Christian heritage by building new churches, teaching Russian Orthodoxy in public schools, and giving considerable policy influence to the Russian Orthodox Church. No, this isn't communism. Whatever Putin is building (or rebuilding), he's using Christianity as a social foundation, not the failed atheism of the past. Call it what you like, but you can't call it communism, because by definition, it simply is not.

What seems repugnant to Westerners, is rather inviting to some Easterners, particularly those with Russian ancestry. So what is drawing people back under Russia's sphere of influence? It would appear that it's not just attraction to Russia alone. Rather, a significant aversion to the West seems to be playing a role. So what's so bad about the West? It doesn't take much to understand once you look at it from an ethnically Russian point of view. Remember, under the USSR, the Russians were essentially sheltered from the social upheavals that transpired in the West during the 1960s through 1980s. There was never any "sexual revolution" to speak of in the Soviet East. While most Russians do not practise Christianity, the basic Christian moral framework is still present in Russian society.  For the most part, people still believe that the best way to live is to work hard, get married, have babies and remain peaceful. So when Russians look to the West, with all of our sexual liberation, and rioting as a form of "protest," it scares them. They see it as chaos, lawlessness, and downright perversion.  Western military excursions into the Middle East, along with US and EU sponsoring of Arab uprisings (which has resulted in the massacre of many Orthodox Christians), hasn't helped the West's image much.  Throw in the NATO bombing of the Orthodox Christian regions of the former Yugoslavia and the West gets a very bad reputation. Russia doesn't have a whole lot to offer people in the way of money and material goods, but it can offer military security, along with plenty of churches, decency laws and solid religious instruction in public schools. Putin is shrewdly offering all this, and Eastern people find it attractive, especially in the face of Western expansion and moral relativism. That's why they love him, and that's why regions of various Eastern countries are voting to join with Vladimir Putin in his rebirth of the Russian Empire. It's probably safe to assume this trend will not end with South Ossetia and Crimea.  In the process the West is losing control of pipelines, and with that the flow of oil and natural gas -- particularly into Europe. Yes, Putin is playing his cards very well, and why shouldn't he? The West unwittingly helped stack the deck in his favour.

The years to come will be hard for the West as the ascendency of Russia is impossible to stop at this point. The US and EU have spent all their political capital in reckless finances, sexual liberation, wars and uprisings, along with unkept promises to those Eastern nations foolish enough to believe them (Georgia & Ukraine). Even a recent opinion poll in the UK shows that the majority of Britons have a more favourable view of Russia than the EU. A paradigm shift is occurring right before the world's eyes, and the West is seemingly powerless to stop it.  The Russian Empire is reborn, and every attempt to frame it in the old Cold War motif has failed. This isn't communism, it's something else, and the West has no idea what to do. In the years to come Russia will continue to grab more land, and more pipelines in the process. Before long Putin will control most of the flow of oil and gas across the Eurasian continent. Europe and America will be nearly powerless to stop it, you see, because these land grabs will come by the will of the people who live there.

It's easy to villainize Vladimir Putin for this, and certainly he does deserve it to some degree.  He's been cold and uncooperative with the West, but then the West has tried to control him, ignore him and even bypass him. We can lament the mistakes of the past all we want, but that won't bring back South Ossetia and Crimea.  Opportunities have been lost and they're not coming back. So where do we go from here?
Maybe it's time for the West to do a little soul searching. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the West has spent a great deal of time and energy manipulating the Middle East in such a way that has been catastrophic to the Christians living therein. NATO has bombed Orthodox Christian regions in the former Yugoslavia, in part, for the purpose of liberating a Muslim region (Kosovo) that appears to now be training terrorists. We haven't done nearly enough to conserve energy resources and discover new forms of energy. We have allowed (even encouraged) our banks to become insolvent and put the West into the longest recession since the 1930s. Finally, when one would think we would have more important things to look after, we have become obsessed with sexual liberation, in the form of "marriage" for homosexuals, along with artificial contraception and abortion-on-demand for everyone else.  The West, and by that I mean primarily Europe and North America, has become decadent, and it is this very thing that has made us weak and pitiful in the eyes of the East.

Do you believe in Divine providence?  I do.  Because for now anyway, it would seem that God is using Russia to chastise the West for its sins and hopefully chide it into reform. The vision Putin offers to Easterners is a narrow one. He offers them a form of godliness but denies its power. He says, "here is a Christian state," but he enforces it using the ways of the devil -- which is power and coercion.  Nevertheless, people are falling for it.  They fell for it in South Ossetia and in Crimea.  More Ukrainian regions will likely follow.  The people will vote in favour of turning to Russia, and then Russia will move in to "accommodate" them. In truth, what Putin offers them is not much, but when faced with Western decadence as their only alternative, many Easterners would rather move toward something more familiar and seemingly "safe."  That trend is not going away. Expect it to spread in the months and years to come.

The West has all the tools it needs to beat the Russian bear at his own game, but we're not likely to use them anytime soon. For now the West is steeped in materialism, secularism and moral relativism. Of course such ideologies lead not only to sexual license, but also to financial malfeasance and international treachery. So as Russia begins to block the international advance of Western decadence, we can expect to see the West begin to "pick at itself" for a while. Conservative and traditional Christians will bear the brunt of this trend with the loss of freedoms and social ostracism. (Of course that will only lend more credence to Russia's argument.) In time however, there is hope that the West may eventually begin to understand that the key to defeating Russia at its own game is to up the ante. If Russia thinks it can offer people wholesome Christian living backed by the state's support of the Orthodox Church, then the West can offer it too, but more Christian and far more wholesome, backed not by the state's support of a particular religion, but by the state's support of religious liberty. The West has the Bishop of Rome, the Pope, who could potentially unite Christians in the West (if they are willing) and someday reach a reunification with the Orthodox churches (including the Russian Orthodox Church). In other words, the Fisherman holds the Keys to the future of Western civilisation.  The Catholic Church remains the West's strongest advocate for traditional Christian morality.  If Western governments would recognise this, and back it as a means for survival, then that changes the whole game.  If Putin can use the Russian Orthodox Church to rebuild a Russian Christian Empire, then the same can be done (but much better and with more freedom) through Western moral backing of the Roman Catholic Church and those churches that morally stand with her.  It's not hard.  We've done it before.  Back during the 1950s it was common to see Hollywood movies in which the Catholic Church, and all churches, were portrayed positively.  Governments respected churches and even allowed religious symbols on public property.  Laws were generally structured in such a way to respect the religious sensibilities of the people.  etc.  Simultaneously, the West can begin utilising the natural resources of North America (oil and gas) far more effectively, while also exploring alternative forms of energy more vigorously.  Between the geothermal energy of Iceland and Yosemite, the West could conceivably produce enough hydrogen to fuel automobiles for a thousand years with zero pollution. Then of course, maybe we can start implementing a little charity into foreign relations and stop pursuing policies that result in the slaughter of Orthodox Christians. When these tactics are realised and implemented by Western leaders, some future Russian leader will be forced to come to the table with the West and broker an energy deal that benefits everyone. Until that day comes however, the West can expect to be clobbered by Russia -- not militarily -- but socially, morally and in the realm of international influence.

This article originally appeared in Forward In Christ Magazine - a traditional Anglican publication.


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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!


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Evangelical in the Ozarks

The title of this blog is "Catholic in the Ozarks," but one of the reasons why I think that's an interesting title is because the Ozark Mountains are heavily populated with Evangelicals.  Evangelicalism is a form of Protestant Christianity that focuses primarily on the message of the Gospel as understood according to classical Protestant theology. It places less emphasis on tradition and structure, with more emphasis on personal study and experience. Evangelicals include many different denominations -- Baptists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God, Church of Christ, Church of the Nazarene, Christian churches, Calvary Chapels, Vineyard churches, nondenominational churches, etc., and those who simply identify themselves as "Bible Christians" or "Born-Again Christians."

Now one of the reasons why my family moved to the Ozarks about 20 years ago is because Evangelicalism in this area has provided some insulation from the corrosive effects of secularism on mainstream American culture.  When I lived in California, I remember people were often quite reserved about talking religion. It was considered a taboo subject. Here in the Ozarks, people talk about it openly and are unafraid.

Taking advantage of some homeschoolers discounts last week, I took the family to the Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson Missouri, where we saw Jonah. Some years back we saw the story of Noah's Ark there as well. Just like last time, it was an amazing production, and I highly recommend it for everyone; priests, religious and laity. One of the most wonderful things about living in the Ozarks, is the eager willingness people have to discuss their faith, and even articulate it in artistic forms as we see in musical productions, concerts, plays, etc. Branson Missouri is the perfect example of this. I've never seen such a place were the message of the Gospel is incorporated into so many shows and entertainment attractions. Even the local theme part -- Silver Dollar City -- has no problem spreading the message of the Gospel on Easter and Christmas.  Yes, it's Evangelical.  No, it's not Catholic. So what!  It's still the basic gospel, and I can tell you my children are better off enriched with this around them.

This is an area I think we Catholics need to work with Evangelicals on more closely. I'm certainly not talking about changing or modifying our faith in any way.  On the contrary, I'm talking about being thoroughly Catholic and at the same time working with these good people in the arts.  Their love of Christ is clearly visible in how they pour all of their creative energies into spreading his good news. This is definitely something we can work together on.


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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!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

John Hagee & Anti-Catholicism

Click Here if you cannot see this video.
For the record, John Hagee has since repented of some of these
views as expressed in this 2012 Letter.

Anti-Catholicism is nothing new. It began in the Western world during the Protestant Reformation.  Martin Luther was the first to foment this terrible ideology with his claims that the pope is the Antichrist, and the Catholic Church is the "Mystery Babylon" written of in the Book of Revelation. Luther had nothing to back this claim, other than his own ideology, but it served a purpose. It frightened the bejeebers out of German Catholics who quickly converted to Luther's form of Christianity for fear of being associated with the Antichrist. It also justified the theft of Catholic properties by German princes as well as the persecution of Catholic political enemies. It was very useful propaganda you see.

Quickly Luther's papal-antichrist cabal was picked up by other Protestant "reformers." Nowhere was this bogeyman from bogeyland tactic more readily employed than in England, where Catholics and Protestants contended for the royal crown. Eventually, Protestants won the day in England, and as a result, Luther's papal-antichrist rhetoric took root. For a few hundred years, Catholicism was virtually illegal in Britain (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). Catholics were persecuted there. England also engaged in wars against Catholic countries in the following centuries, and once again, Luther's papal-antichrist bogeyman came in very handy. It's much easier to kill Catholic Spaniards and French when you believe they are serving the Biblical Antichrist you see.

In truth, Luther simply invented the papal-antichrist cabal to serve his own purposes.  It justified his religious schism with Rome, and solidified his position as a permanent religious leader in Germany. I don't think Luther ever imagined how far this babylonian-antichrist rhetoric would go. Politicians of the day couldn't resist. They, and those who followed them, employed it to its full potential. People were persecuted because of this propaganda. They were denied religious services and derided for their beliefs.  Their religious properties were stolen, and they were made to be second-class citizens.  Yes, some were injured and even killed in the name of this propaganda.

As centuries passed, people added to the tall tales of the fabled papal-antichrist. False stories were invented about the inquisitions and crusades. Endless justification was made for the persecution of Catholics. Even the British colonies in North America were initially no safe refuge for Catholics. Eventually, the colony of "Mary Land" (now known as Maryland) was created as a place where Catholics could live in relative peace. Even then however, such peace was often short-lived.  The British colonists in America were no better than their Protestant counterparts in Britain when it came to their mistreatment of Catholics. However, as colonists were forced to try to live in peace with Amerindians (Native Americans), they eventually began to adopt a more tolerant attitude toward Catholics, at least on an official government level. You see, what most history books don't tell you is that many of the Amerindians (Native Americans) were already Christians by the time the English set up their colonies on the Eastern seaboard of North America. They were originally evangelised by French Catholics you see. Many brave French Catholic priests came to this continent years before English Protestant ministers.  Consequently, many of the so-called "savages" in North America were actually devout Catholics. Now some tribes retained their Native American spiritualism, but a good number of tribes were also Catholic. British colonists gradually began to adopt more tolerant views of Catholics (and Jews) as time passed, at least on a government level.  On a public and social level, prejudice remained, and the papal-antichrist fable continued to rear its ugly head.

On this blog, and in my book "Catholicism for Protestants," I have demonstrated that it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for the pope to ever be the Antichrist. For if he ever takes on the characteristics of Antichrist, he automatically ceases to be pope, indeed he would be an "antipope" which means he was never pope to begin with. Martin Luther was just plain wrong. The entire premise he bases his argument on is fatally flawed (as are most of the premises for many of his teachings), but this is where lousy logic will get you.  I'll demonstrate once more why the pope cannot be the Antichrist...
QUESTION: Is the pope the Antichrist? 
ANSWER: While this question may seem ridiculous to many people, you might be surprised to discover just how many Protestants actually believe it, or are at least suspicious of it.  The notion comes from the first Protestant reformer himself – Martin Luther – in the sixteenth century, who asserted that the office of the papacy is the Antichrist.  That's not to say any particular pope, but the office of the papacy itself. So when German Protestants began to mix with English Protestants in the United States during the nineteenth century, you can imagine what an explosive combination this created.  As new American-style Protestant denominations were formed, the office of the papacy went from being the Antichrist on a purely philosophical level, to the actual incarnation of evil itself!

This notion has become very popular among some Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in the United States, and is a bit humorous when you really stop and think about it.  Before we start levelling the accusation of "Antichrist" at anybody, or any office, it might help to actually understand what the Bible has to say about it.  After all, the whole idea of "Antichrist" is a Biblical concept.   
So what does the Bible say about the Antichrist?  Well, for starters, the Bible tells us that the "spirit of antichrist" was alive and well even during the Apostolic age (1st John 2:18).  It also tells us that in order to be antichrist in any way, one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Jewish Messiah (1st John 2:22).  One must also deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of flesh and blood (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7).  These are the only four times the word "antichrist" appears in the Scriptures.  So based on the Biblical definition, to be an antichrist (or even THE Antichrist) one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and one must deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of human flesh.  Sorry, that's just the Biblical definition, and since the term "Antichrist" is a Biblical term, just like the term "Christ" itself, it has no real meaning outside this Biblical definition. 
Now since every pope since the time of St. Peter has affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, that sort of disqualifies every pope in history from being an antichrist.  Of course, the office of the papacy itself was literally founded on Saint Peter's affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messianic Son of God (Matthew 16:15-19), so that disqualifies the papal office from being antichrist.  Since the pope literally teaches, and his office is literally founded upon, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, it is literally impossible (in every Biblical sense) for the pope, or his papal office, to be the Antichrist in any way.  Again, sorry, but the Bible speaks for itself here.  To assert that the pope or the papacy is somehow, in any way, the Antichrist, is to completely deny the plain and clear teaching of the Bible on this matter.  Now, if some people want to go ahead and call the pope the Antichrist anyway, then they can go ahead, but in doing so, the rest of us need to understand they are directly contradicting the Bible when they do this.

In the video above, Evangelical Pastor John Hagee regurgitates the same tired anti-Catholic propaganda of Martin Luther. However, he adds something to it which is really quite common among Protestant Fundamentalists today. In doing so, Hagee aligns himself with Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists and a host of other radical anti-Catholic groups. I've posted the above video for reference sake. I imagine most of my readers will not be able to tolerate watching the whole thing. It's really quite sad. However, what I wish to point out here is that nothing, and I mean literally nothing, John Hagee is saying here is new. It may be new to the people in the audience, or to the many fans he has on television, but what he's saying is actually not very new at all. It's really quite old you see. The basic premise of it goes back to Martin Luther, but that's just the basic premise. All the juicy stuff comes from another source in the middle 19th century -- a fellow by the name of Alexander Hislop.

Alexander Hislop
The Father of Modern Anti-Catholicism
Alexander Hislop was a 19th century minister in the Free Church of Scotland. He was known primarily for his outspoken vitriol against the Roman Catholic Church.  Hislop published a few books, but his most famous was "The Two Babylons: Papal worship Proved to be the worship of Nimrod and His wife." The entire book can be viewed online at this anti-Catholic website HERE. To simplify, Hislop's premise is that the entire Roman Catholic religion is really just an extension of ancient Paganism, whitewashed in a grand conspiracy to appear Christian when it's really not. (Not even Martin Luther would be so bold as to suggest that!) Hislop asserts that the whole thing originated with the ancient King Nimrod of Babel and his wife Samarimus. From this he extrapolates an elaborate web on interconnection between every Pagan religion in the Western world, resulting in the final culmination of Roman Catholicism, wherein people are taught to worship the pope, and Mary, who is in actuality just a personification of Nimrod's wife Samarimus.

"Two Babylons"
Published in tracts between 1853-1858
Then as a book in 1919.
I read the book back in the 1990s when I was an Evangelical, and I found something very curious about it.  Whenever, Hislop made a fantastic claim, he would cite a reference in a footnote.  Most people don't read footnotes, but I do. So naturally I checked it out. I was astonished to find that the vast majority of his footnotes did not cite other sources, but rather cited himself on another page in the same book. These were cross-references, not source citations, which means that Hislop was effectively admitting (in his own writing) that he had no sources -- other than himself.  At that point I dismissed his book, and within about a year, I dismissed his whole Catholicism-Paganism conspiracy.  Within about another two years, I became a Roman Catholic Christian. I'm not alone. While others may not have made the journey into the Catholic Church, there are plenty who have openly criticised the works of Alexander Hislop.  On page 135 of Bill Ellis' book "Raising the Devil," Hislop's book is described as conspiracy theorist propaganda having "sketchy knowledge of Middle Eastern antiquity with a vivid imagination." I couldn't think of a better description myself.

In the video of Hagee above, I noted more errors than I could count, not only in what Hagee says Catholics believe, but also historical errors as well. I'm not talking about little historical errors. I'm talking about enormous ones! For example; Hagee describes Emperor Constantine as the first Catholic pope.  Constantine was a general and a politician.  He was not a member of any clergy.  He was never a priest.  He was never a bishop, and he certainly was never a pope! Nowhere is he even listed in the Catholic Church's index of popes. This is an egregious historical error, and I do mean epic! Yet, not only does Hagee just carry on as if nothing is wrong, but his audience just nods and listens attentively. I think this demonstrates something. In order for this kind of ridiculous propaganda to take root in society, and for people like John Hagee to become wildly successful, you need to have a population that is woefully ignorant of history. I doubt any single person in Hagee's audience could tell you who canonised the Bible in AD 400.  They probably wouldn't even know the Bible was canonised in AD 400.  I doubt ten people in that audience could even tell you what the word "canonised" means.  This is what I'm talking about.  The American Christian population is so completely uneducated about Christian history that they will literally fall for anything.  There is no way Pastor John Hagee's rhetoric could be a success in America if Americans actually knew their Bible and the history behind it.

However, I don't want to just pick on Pastor Hagee. He's not alone. Just as his ministry is completely unoriginal, and a knock off of anti-Catholics who came before him, so there are many more who are doing the exact same thing. Some of them have television, radio and Internet ministries. Others are just country preachers who have a single pulpit and a small congregation.  There are many to be sure, but all of them have one thing in common. They all draw on both Martin Luther and Alexander Hislop as their primary source of information.  Even today's modern anti-Catholic books, videos and audio series draw heavily upon Luther and Hislop -- mostly on Hislop.

I want to go back to a commandment for a moment here.  It's the eighth commandment according to the Catholic way of counting them, and ninth according to the common Protestant way of counting them.  It says this: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." For about five-hundred years now, Protestant leaders have been bearing false witness against Catholics and the Catholic Church, all in the name of religion. I think after half a millennium it really needs to stop. They bear false witness about what we believe. They bear false witness about what we practise. They bear false witness about our leaders. They bear false witness about what we did in history. The bear false witness about the origin of our beliefs and leaders. It goes on, and on, and on, and on... for five-hundred years!  One would think the lies would start to get old.  Granted, most people don't know they're lies.  Because of their ignorance of religion and history, they've simply swallowed false propaganda and regurgitated it.  Yet with each new generation these fables are revived with new vigour and told to people who think it's all brand-spanking-new revelation. Seriously, if your pastor is basing your religious teachings on bald-faced lies about another religion, it might be time to find a new pastor. Since when is bearing false witness part of the Christian gospel?

Now don't get me wrong. The Catholic Church is not totally innocent here. We Catholics have our share of naughty history in dealing with Protestants. However, for the most part, Rome has owned up to this. In the Second Vatican Council, the bishops of the Catholic Church plainly stated that men on both sides were to blame for the division between Catholics and Protestants.  The Vatican has condemned anti-Protestantism, and commanded that Protestants be respected as Christians, and that ecumenical relations be opened with them. Yes, we Catholics haven't been perfect little angels, but at the same time, we've also owned up to our mistakes.  John Hagee has likewise repented of, and renounced, some of the above video recorded statements he's made about the Catholic Church as demonstrated in this signed letter here. I would hope the majority of Evangelicals would follow this example and do the same.

Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of ' -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism for

Monday, April 07, 2014

The End of Christian America

Martyrdom of a Mexican Priest in 1927 during the Cristeros War
This priest was executed simply for obeying the Catholic Church after the Mexican government told him not to.
April 7, 2014 may now be remembered as the date in which Christians began to lose their freedom of religion in the United States....
( — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday has declined to hear Elane Photography v. Willock, the case of a photographer who was told by the New Mexico Supreme Court that she must, as “the price of citizenship,” use her creative talents to communicate a message with which she disagrees or suffer punishment.... 
....“Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will,” added Senior Counsel David Cortman. “Elaine and numerous others like her around the country have been more than willing to serve any and all customers, but they are not willing to promote any and all messages. A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government every American should fear.” 
read more here
It's not over mind you, a few similar cases are still pending, but this is a very ominous sign. Whenever the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear a case, it has the de facto effect of upholding the lower court's previous ruling. Now the Supreme Court can later overrule that ruling with another similar case, so we could say there is still a glimmer of hope. However, one would think this particular case would be a very fast and easy one to settle. One of the reasons why the Supreme Court refused to hear it could be because it will soon issue a ruling on the Obamacare HHS mandate that forces private companies to pay for "medical services" (abortion and contraception) they morally object to. The effect of this ruling could bleed over into cases such as this one. For example; if the Supreme Court sides with Hobby Lobby and strikes down the HHS mandate, then the effect of that case would be to vindicate Elane Photography and uphold the owner's religious freedom in this and all similar cases. If on the other hand, the Supreme Court sides with the Obamacare HHS mandate, then that would indicate that the Supreme Court has sided AGAINST religious freedom not only on the HHS mandate issue, but in the case of Elane Photography as well, and all similar cases.  So this case now in the Supreme Court (Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare) has everything riding on it.

On a personal level, I have zero confidence in the United States Supreme Court. If they rule in favour of Hobby Lobby on religious freedom, I suspect it will be a watered-down ruling that will still diminish religious freedom in some way.  If it actually rules fully in favour of religious freedom, then I will be shocked and consider it a fluke of history. We are after all, talking about the same branch of government that gave us Dred Scott v. Sandford and Roe v. Wade. The first ruling led to the Civil War and the second produced a holocaust of 40 million dead babies. When we examine the history of the US Supreme Court we find that it is far more apt to produce evil than good. So with that reputation under its nine robes, I think we can have reasonable expectation of this branch of government doing something particularly dastardly in this high profile case. So when it comes to the US Supreme Court, I pray for the best but expect the worst.

My own pessimism aside, let's look at what our role as Christians will be in the years ahead, regardless of the US Supreme Court's decision. For our role as Christians (particularly Catholic Christians) does not change.

It is simple really. We need to stop framing our thoughts, views and actions in terms of our own "freedom" or "liberty."  As we will soon learn, one way or another, "freedom" and "liberty" in a secular sense is determined entirely by the whim of those in government, even if they are supposedly "dignified" judges in dirty black robes. Your "freedom" and mine means nothing to them.  Your "liberty" is simply what they decide it to be. So when we frame our defence in terms of "freedom" and "liberty" we automatically lose, if not now than later, because these are abstract concepts entirely dependent on those in charge. I find it amusing that Christians are so eager to point to the United States Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence, as their defence in such cases. Freedom of religion may have meant one thing in George Washington's time, but guess what? George Washington isn't here any more, and neither is Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. Those folks, for all of their writings and sacrifices, can't help us these days, as the United States government has proved time and time again.  Appeals to religious freedom are eventually destined for failure, if not now then someday. There is only one defence that will work, but to make it work, it will require sacrifice.

The defence that every Christian must appeal to is "religion" itself, not "religious freedom."  That's right. The defence every Christian must appeal to, whether it be the right to speak for or against some things, or the right to pay or not pay for some things, or the right to do or not do some things, is simply "religion."  That's it. Not "religious freedom" but "religion" -- period. Christians, especially Catholic Christians, need to be as bold as Muslims by citing our "religion" alone for the reason why we say and do things. Yes, our society and government will persecute us for this. They will fine us, take away our licenses and perhaps even jail us for this.  Yes, we will receive the scorn of our culture for this.  They will call us "bigots" and "fascists" and "obsolete" and whatever other epitaph they can dream up.  Some of us will be laughed at.  Some of us will be yelled at.  Some of us will even be beaten for this. It's called martyrdom people! And this is a concept Christian Americans have a really hard time wrapping their minds around. This is how Christians win.  We win in the short term by pleasing God with our personal sacrifices for his Son.  We win in the long term because the blood of the martyrs becomes the seeds of the Church. Every time in history when martyrs have sacrificed themselves for his Son, God has rewarded their sacrifice with the eventual revival of the Church and its inevitable victory over oppressive governments and society. Look at what happened with ancient Rome. I tell you, perhaps within our lifetimes, we may see a revival of Christianity in the Middle East not seen in over a thousand years!  Why?  Because Christians are sacrificing themselves there.  The same goes for China.  Their sacrifices will not go unnoticed by God.

Christians here in the United States need to be willing to do the same thing.  Our focus should not be avoiding persecution, but rather inviting it with our loyalty to Christ. Let us show the world, and history, by using our own sacrifices as an example, just how intolerant and hateful Secular Humanism is. Let us show the world, and history, through our martyrdom (financial, legal and even physical) jut how hateful Washington DC, and our state governments, really have become toward Christianity. This is the way to victory, it is the only way to victory there is.  Indeed, it is the only way to victory there ever was.

From now on, whenever asked why we believe homosexuality is wrong, we should simply answer, "because our religion tells us so" and leave it at that. When asked why we won't pay for abortion and contraception, we should just answer "because our religion tells us so" and leave it at that. From now on whenever the government says we have to do something that violates our beliefs we should simply answer "we can't, because our religion tells us so" and leave it at that, willing to pay whatever fine, sacrifice whatever license, and serve whatever time in prison is necessary.  Let us keep track of it, document it, and tell the world through the Internet and every media available. Let us simply be martyrs and show the world how intolerant a Secular Humanist society and government really is.  Let history be its judge and let our sacrifices be our gifts to God. If, by a fluke of nature, the US Supreme Court rules in our favour, then we have that favour -- for now. (In time that will change.) If on the other hand, the more likely scenario occurs wherein the Supreme Court rules against us, then our actions do not change. We simply continue to do everything the way we have been doing, all in the name of religion, simply because our religion tells us so, and for no other reason. Let us break the government's law, when it is unjust, and allow ourselves to be martyrs because of it, as our sacrifice unto God.

Above is a photograph of a Mexican priest who was executed (martyred) during the Cristeros War in the 1920s.  Let this man be our guide and example.  During the 1920s the Mexican government thought it could take over all the religious activities of the Mexican people. People were told they could not go to mass except on days the Mexican government approved.  Priests not native to Mexico were expelled from the country, in the hope of gaining more control over the clergy.  Some priests resisted, broke the law, and remained in Mexico as Church law dictates, so they could serve their flock by saying mass, baptising children, and performing weddings.  For breaking the Mexican government's unjust laws, these priests were executed (martyred), and thousands of Mexican Catholics joined them in martyrdom, as their bodies hung from telephone polls all across the country.  Yes this really happened.  Look it up.  This is the price of Secular Humanism running amok in Mexico.  Now we see it beginning to run amok in the United States.  If Mexican Catholics can give their very lives, and sacrifice everything for the sake of their religion, what then are American Christians (especially Catholic Christians) ready to do?  Are American Christians as brave and as faithful as Mexican Christians?  Perhaps now we shall see.


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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!