28 January 2011

A conversation remembered

When I was doing my Clinical Pastoral Education at a hospital in Bloomington, Illinois during the summer of 2004, I worked with four other chaplains to provide pastoral care to the patients and their families.

One day one of my fellow chaplains - a Methodist pastor who did not accept all of the teachings of the Methodist denomination - asked me, "If you weren't Catholic, what would would you be?"

It was a question that had never been posed to me before so after a moment's thought, I said, "I suppose I'd be Orthodox."

He say, "No. I mean what Protestant denomination would you be?"

This time my response required no consideration. I looked at him and said, "Simply from my study of history alone, I could not be a Protestant. None have their beginnings before the mid 1500s and yet they claim to be the Church Jesus founded. It simply is historically untrue and I could not be true, from the vantage point of history alone."

He looked at me and said, "Huh." And thus the conversation ended, and it was brought up again.

Which brings me to a new coffee mug the illustrious Father Zuhlsdorf has available sporting my favorite quotation from Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman:

You can your mug here, in a variety of sizes.


  1. I'm not sure I fully agree with this, as most Protestant denominations would reject the idea of one true institutionalized church in the Catholic/Orthodox sense. The Anglicans also have the branch theory. On a technical note, the Moravian church, into which I was baptized in 2005, dates back to 1457.

    Where traditional Protestantism falls apart for me is Sola Scriptura. I've always had problems with the idea of an infallible text as highest authority, but even beyond at, as an Orthodox monk in the West Bank monastery of Mar Saba pointed out to me a few years ago, the church canonized the Bible as a testimony of its faith and tradition, not the other way around, with the Bible being handed down directly with people using it to establish churches. I've been meaning to ask if the Catholic view is similar. The catechism on the Vatican web site is ridiculous to try an navigate around. A further point, of course, is that Protestants follow by using a Hebrew-only canon for the Old Testament that was not followed by any Christians until the 1500's.

  2. Whether they agree with it or not does not change the historical fact.

    Thank you for the clarification on the Moravian church; I am unfamiliar with it.

    The principle of sola scriptura falls apart from the very beginning since there is no such principle found in the scriptures.

    You are right that the Catechism on the Vatican web site is not terribly helpful. The USCCB has the index to the Catechism - with hyperlinks - on it's web site: http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/

    There is a searchable Catechism somewhere; I'll have to see if I can't track it down.

    Regarding the Bible, the Catechism notes a few things:

    "...the Christian faith is not a 'religion of the book.' Christianity is the religion of the 'Word' of God, a word which is 'not a written and mute word, but the Word which is incarnate and living' (CCC, 108).

    "It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included int he list of the sacred books" (CCC, 120).

    If I read what you wrote correctly, I think is a similar understanding.

  3. Thanks for the USCCB link. Moravians go back to Jan Hus, though they often drift too close to Lutheranism for my liking. In the U.S. are mainly found in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina.

    The Bible seems clearly to envision a community independent of it. For example, its authors say things like, "When you fast..." but they never specify any of the fasts to which the following words are to apply.