I knew my ears were ringing for some reason. HT to my Prebyterian friend David for calling my attention to a discussion string on the Melbourne Anglican Study Group forum. It starts off talking about Wesley and Charles Simeon and then, when David puts in a comment about working with other orthodox Christians despite differences on points of theology, the thing goes off on a tangent about the merits or otherwise of Catholicism. It’s worth reading the whole string, but check this out from “Jareth”:
Heh, heh, my wife and I watched a TV documentary the other week about the life of Pope Benedict, and commented to each other how much we wished we could convert to the Catholic religion (if only they got rid of that Mary stuff and a few other dodgy things ) – at times we felt we had a lot more common ground with the Pope than with Rowan Williams and many other of the Anglican leaders out there… We love what he said just before Christmas about “ecology” (ok I’d better shut up now)
The doctrinal faults of Catholicism — Mary, the re-sacrificing of Christ in the mass, faith+works, etc. — certainly make our conversion to Catholicism very very unlikely.
However, we have many a time had a genuine heart-felt admiration for and envy of Roman Catholicism, and the 2 popes who have reigned in our lifetime. Unlike the Protestant churches, who keep giving ground to modern culture and ideology, Catholicism seems incredibly resistant to liberalisation — they simply refuse to budge from historic doctrinal positions. They don’t care if that makes them unpopular or an object of popular scorn — faithfulness to orthodoxy (and to God) matters much more to them. We admire, for instance, how the Catholic church keeps giving the finger to the pro-death lobby and gay lobby no matter what the cultural pressure — where others like the Anglicans and Uniting Church simply cave in. Yet Catholicism also cares for all the important global issues like war & peace, the poor, and the environment, about which we are also passionate. Hence Rachel and I have kind of adopted the Pope as a kind of defacto moral spiritual leader to fill the vacuum we have in protestantism (excepting Mark Driscoll of course!!!), and we pray for God to uphold and strengthen his leadership of the Christian world.
It’s not just us BTW — I’ve got a (evangelical protestant) Christian friend in the US with whom I correspond, and 6 months ago when I asked him which presidential candidate he preferred (out of Hillary, Obama and McCain). He said that he had major problems with all 3 of them, and the world leader who most closely aligns with his point of view on everything — is the Pope. (Unfortunately the pope wasn’t running for election :-))
Good stuf, eh? Well, except for the stuff about the “dodgy doctrines”, and that’s what David asked me about in the email in which he drew my attention to this rather candid discussion and appraisal of “the Churches in communion with Rome” (as I am teaching Pastor Weedon to call us).
David wrote as follows:
I’ve been having a conversation with an Anglican layman over at http://www.masg.net.au/MASG/Discussion%20Forum.html – its the “Charles Simeon takes on John Wesley” thread.
If you scroll down to the end I have been in conversation with Jereth on how you square up your Lutheran doctrine of Lord’s Supper and Mary with your Catholic new self. e.g. with Mary and the issue of Jesus’ brothers and sisters and Mary as the go between, my guess is that you affirm your access to God through our Lord Jesus, you don’t pray to Mary, she isn’t “coredemtrix”, but you honour and revere her as Theotokos. Is that right? Do you have any comment and am I correct in my assertion re Lord’s Supper?
It is probably easiest if I take what he said directly from the discussion string and answer these questions in answer to that.
1) “Lutheran doctrine re real presence of body and blood of Christ not all that far from transubstantiation.”
That’s what the Australian Catholic Lutheran Dialogue concluded in their statement a “Sacrament and Sacrifice” (1985). Although Lutherans would never use a scholastic/philosophical word like “transubstantiation” to say what they mean. They prefer the simple “IS” of our Lord’s statements (as in “This [bread] IS my body”), and leave it at that.
2) Not sure about Mary, will have to ask them if they affirm she remained a virgin as per RC doctrine.
Yep. But that was Luther’s take on it too. In fact, the doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity was the standard in the Early Church, and no-one ever took the scriptural references to “Jesus’ brothers and sisters” to mean Mary’s children. It is worth checking out St Jerome’s “Against Helvidius: On the Perpetual Virginity of Blessed Mary.” which makes it quite clear how novel Helvidius’ opinion on this matter was. The best modern explanation (and the most convincing exegesis of scripture on the problem) may be found in Raymond Brown’s commentary on the Gospel of John, in an excursus on the women at the cross/tomb.
3) “and Mary as the go between, my guess is that you affirm your access to God through our Lord Jesus, you don’t pray to Mary, she isn’t “coredemtrix”, but you honour and revere her as Theotokos. Is that right? “
We certainly do affirm our access to God through our Lord Jesus. All liturgical prayer is offered to the Father in the name of and through Jesus Christ his Son in the power of the Holy Spirit. “Prayers to the Saints” are not like prayer to the Father or even to Jesus, but are actually requests for help through their intercession on our behalf (think: ancient imperial court, and you will get the picture). Rather than going to God through the saints, Catholics in fact believe that we only have communion with the Saints through our mutual communion in Christ. We do not believe that we direct access to either Mary or any of the other saints apart from Christ. Prayer is viewed as a communal thing: all the saints, living and dead, joined in one communion of intercession before God.
As for the “co-redemptrix” thing… What is in question is a title, okay? Were the Church to definitely declare that the title “co-redemptrix” is applicable to Mary, she (the Church) would not be inventing new doctrine, but would be saying that the title is in accordance with what we already believe and have always believed. So what do we believe? We believe that Mary was more than just a conduit for the incarnation. In other words, she was not just like a drainpipe through which water flows. She was really involved in the Incarnation of our Lord, body and soul. Thus she had a concrete and real role in God’s plan of redemption. So in that sense she might be properly called “co-redemptrix” – in the sense that (ENTIRELY BY GOD’S GRACE) she was enabled to “cooperate” with the Holy Spirit in being the bearer of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son. He received his humanity from her. That’s what we mean by Theotokos too: she was the God-bearer. But I don’t think that this title for Mary will be officially defined, because it does create confusion. One misinterpretation of the title would be to regard it as suggesting that Mary’s role in God’s plan of redemption was equal in kind and quality to the role of Christ. That would be utterly false.