It’s not in the mainstream press, but it is on my Facebook feed. It is not discussed in polite company, but I have heard my fair share of snide remarks in private conversation. Anti-Catholic sentiment in this nation remains very real and there is nothing like a papal visit to bring it out. I am not talking about theological or ecclesiastical disagreements here, I am talking about “the pope is the anti-Christ and will usher in the destruction of the world” kind of stuff. It is the oddest form of bigotry I have ever run into because it always comes from Protestants, ignoring the fact that their very name indicates that their roots are in the Catholic Church. Without Catholicism, there is no Protestantism.
Moreover, it usually comes from protestant denominations that sprang from other protestant denominations, not from Catholicism itself. It is as if someone woke up one morning and said, “You original Protestants do not hate the Roman Catholics enough, we have to start something new.” For the record, I am not Catholic – I am one of those “original” Protestants which frankly makes me a rarity into today’s America. I am a high church man with a strong affinity for a large and well organized denominational structure. I am a conservative Presbyterian with an evangelical outlook, but I am no longer sure I can label myself “Evangelical” in the sense that that word in the last couple of decades has come to carry. I do not view the Roman Catholic church as “the one true church,” but I do view it as the predominant and most historically important of the Christian expressions.
And therefore, I do not for the life of me understand the vitriolic and outspoken resentment, if not hatred, of the Roman Catholic Church.
I have examined it and discussed it and tried to understand it, but I cannot. I ask, and I get quoted all sorts of theological differences. But when I point out that the person I am talking to has similar theological differences with other, non-Catholic, Christians of similar nature and extent that does not result in such ugly rhetoric and dismissal I am simply told that I don’t really understand. Likewise when the topic is differences in ecclesiastical structure. There is something entirely unreasonable to the anti-Catholic sentiment that runs through our nation.
And that usually indicates that it is personal – somebody was hurt by the Catholic church, or somebody that somebody knows was hurt by the church, or your denomination was “crushed” by the RCC in some old world nation, or your preacher hates the fact that the local parish draws twice the crowd he does. Who knows? The point is such issues have little to do with God, or belief, and much to do with people and personalities.
Most people know the verses in First Corinthians:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?
But few remember the context wherein the Apostle Paul continues to build his case for why such divisiveness is bad – because it is based not on God but on the things of this world. And then he says this:
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS.”
That’s pretty strong language.
My effort in this post is not to try and reconcile Catholicism and Protestantism, but to alter our attitudes about each other. We can differ without the vitriol, condemnation, and derision that so often marks the discussion. But most importantly, we can focus on what we can do together. These are desperate times for the Christian faith in America, and especially for the traditional family, which is why the Pope is here. I think we all agree on that.
Perhaps if we focused on that rather than where we differ we could accomplish much good together.