“Bagging Lutherans” on SCE?

In the last couple of days, I have had an e-conversation with a potential SCE commentator. He had submitted a comment on my “caption competition” of Arch. Vincent Nichols giving the “thumbs up” (see here). His entry read: “I see you’re still bagging the Lutherans. Good show!”

I wrote to him, saying:

Sorry, ol’ boy, I didn’t really think that your entry in the caption comp was worthy of publication. We don’t “bag” Lutherans on this site, and I don’t think the good Archbishop of Westminster would either. Don’t let this disuade you from future submissions, however!

I then received a reply which has really set me thinking and reflecting on my comments on this blog. In fact, what he wrote fairly well accords with another comment that was submitted for my post concerning Fr Cutie. So I thought, is there substance to this accusation?

I will give you his complete email so you can judge for yourself – and perhaps tell me if I have been “bagging Lutherans” (et aliter):

That’s okay, David. I was debating with myself whether you would publish my gag, and I had already decided that you probably wouldn’t.

Call it what you will, but “bagging Lutherans” is the impression I got from your blog. (I have no connection to Lutheranism. I discovered your blog while researching reactions to the shooting of Dr Tiller.) For example, just recently, you’ve:

compared your Lutheran ordination to fornication;
expressed incomprehension at an abortion provider being an active member of a Lutheran congregation, and implied that the Lutheran Church is utterly unable “to even begin to address the ethics of abortion”;
described the Lutheran Church’s claim to be “a safe place for all” as “a laughing stock”;
implied that there is something bad about the “ELCA…health policy which includes funding abortions for their female pastors”;
published (without apparent criticism) Peter’s comment which implies that the ELCA is not a real church and that the ELCA’s female pastors are not real pastors;
published (again without apparent criticism) Joshua’s comment which implies that a female pastor of the ELCA who sought an abortion “would be more honest if she worshipped Ishtar or Moloch.”

Not that you’ve limited your insults to the Lutheran Church only. You’ve demonstrated a casual disrespect for “the truth of the Episcopalian faith (whatever that may be)”, described the Episcopalian clergy in the photo on your blog as “obscene” and “gloating”, and implied that their support for Father Cutié may be fickle (“they’ve just snared the biggest fish of their lives…before tossing it back in the water or…?”).

I find it contradictory that all these insults (and the corollary lack of charity, humility and forgiveness) come from a person who is committed publicly to supporting ecumenism. Your insults on your blog remind me of a consumer who has switched brands (in the spiritual marketplace, in this instance) or a person who has changed lovers: not only do you talk up your new loyalty, you talk down your old.

I’ve often experienced far-right Catholics insulting others (and each other); but insults are a poor display of Christian patience and love nonetheless.

I want to reply to this letter in public, because there is a good chance that others may be thinking exactly the same things. My question here is: Is there enough truth in what he says to raise questions? Or is it simply the frame of mind in which he has read what I have written?

Are my comments as heinous as my correspondent paints them? Actually, if I indeed said all things that he says I said, I would have to agree: I would be unfit, not only as an ecumenist, but as a Christian!

Let’s look at the charges. He says that recently I have:

1) “compared [my] Lutheran ordination to fornication”

He takes my comment (in this post) out of context. I was responding (in part) to a comment on Fraser Pearce’s blog, which suggested that Lutheran pastors who abandoned their ordination vows to become Catholics were “selfish”, and compared it to those who abandon their wedding vows. My response in comparing Lutheran orders to “fornication” or “adultery” was not to suggest anything lude nor to denigrate the immense value of the Lutheran ministry, but simply to point out that invalid ordination vows cannot be considered any more binding canonically than invalid marriage vows. The fact that the Catholic Church does not recognise Lutheran orders is no secret, although it may well be impolitic to mention it in polite company.

I can see how my comment could be read out of context as “insulting” to the Lutheran Office of the Ministry. All I can say is that it was not meant to be read in that way.

2) “expressed incomprehension at an abortion provider being an active member of a Lutheran congregation, and implied that the Lutheran Church is utterly unable “to even begin to address the ethics of abortion”;

I find it incomprehensible that an abortion provider could be an active or true Christian of any stripe at all, not just a Lutheran. And I did not say that “the Lutheran Church” is “utterly unable to even begin to address the ethics of abortion”. I said that “some mainline liberal protestant Churches” are utterly unable “to even begin to address the ethics of abortion”. There is a considerable difference. I actually seem to recall that Cardinal Walter Kasper has said something similar at some point along the way (I don’t have the reference at the moment), and he is in charge of a far more important ecumenical agency in the Church than me.

Of course, certain Lutheran Churches, and certain Protestant Churches – liberal and conservative – ARE able to address the ethics of abortion. I was simply saying that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America is not. That is an opinion with which many Lutherans themselves would agree, both here and in the States. I might also point out that the Lutheran Church of Australia is a staunch opponent of abortion and ally of the Catholic Church in this matter. I was not including them in “some mainline liberal protestant Churches.” Which isn’t to say that there are NOT some MLP Churches in Australia to whom this DOES apply.

These are facts, not “insults”.

3) “described the Lutheran Church’s claim to be “a safe place for all” as “a laughing stock”;

I will only just say in my defence that this was not a comment about “the Lutheran Church” in general, but about the particular statement of the particular congregation of the ELCA where Dr Tiller was a member. It obviously wasn’t a “safe place” for unborn children. Was what I said an “insult”? I will leave it to you to judge.

4) “implied that there is something bad about the “ELCA…health policy which includes funding abortions for their female pastors”; ”

WELL, DUH! ISN’T there something “bad” about funding abortions? And something PARTICULARLY “bad” about Christian clergy procurring abortions? THIS is an “insult”?

5) “published (without apparent criticism) Peter’s comment which implies that the ELCA is not a real church and that the ELCA’s female pastors are not real pastors;”

Peter’s reference was to a book (which you can buy and read called “There we stood, here we stand”), which has a chapter by an ex-ELCA woman pastor, Jennifer Ferrara, entitled “Real Churches don’t kill Babies”. She could have called it “Real Christians don’t kill babies”, and it would have made the same point. I don’t think either Peter or Jennifer were passing a canonical ruling on the ecclesiological authenticity of the ELCA (for this you will have to read the equally negative judgement of the declaration Dominus Iesus). Rather they were making a moral judgement. And I find it hard to disagree with that moral judgement. Is this an “insult”? No, it is a criticism based on the facts that are clear for all to see.

5) “published (again without apparent criticism) Joshua’s comment which implies that a female pastor of the ELCA who sought an abortion “would be more honest if she worshipped Ishtar or Moloch.”

That was Joshua’s point of view, not mine. His name, not mine, was on the comment. I am sure Josh would stand by his point of view. Was it immoderate? You judge.

As for “bagging Lutherans”, I wrote to my correspondent, who confessed that he has “no connection with Lutheranism”, that

I describe myself (have described myself often on my blog) as a “Lutheran in communion with the Bishop of Rome”. I am an honourary member of my wife’s Lutheran parish, the pastor of which is one of my oldest and best friends. Since becoming ecumenical officer of the Archdiocese, I have advanced every possible opportunity for dialogue with the local Lutheran Church. I am on friendly terms with the local Lutheran President (“bishop”). My blog is read regularly by many Lutherans in Australia and elsewhere. A regular commentator is Pastor William Weedon, LCMS pastor from the United States. The fact is that when I speak of Lutheranism, I am not speaking as a “non-Lutheran”. I am speaking to members of my own family. I have not “changed lovers”. Perhaps that is why you misread my comments as “insults”. You can find more – and indeed more strident – criticisms (or “insults” if you will) on Lutheran blogs of the very things that I criticise on this blog.

However, my correspondent claims that I have not “limited [my] insults to the Lutheran Church only”. I have, apparently,

1) “demonstrated a casual disrespect for “the truth of the Episcopalian faith (whatever that may be)”

Guilty. But when the only clearly and dearly held “truth of the Episcopalian faith” is the right of homosexuals to a Christian marriage, and when they are willing to divide the entire Anglican communion over this “truth”, it is far too easy to show the “casual disrespect” for it.

2) “described the Episcopalian clergy in the photo on your blog as “obscene” and “gloating””

Okay, maybe I was a bit harsh on this. But tell me: there are four clergy in the picture with Mr Cutie, two of them bishops. How many bishops/clergy does it take to receive someone into the Church? Perhaps you could put this down to sour grapes on my part that there were no bishops at all at my reception, and not even Kairos, let alone Associated Press, turned up to take a photo. But I can’t help comparing this reception with the recent reception of an esteemed friend of mine who is a highly educated scholar of theology. He was catechised and received into the Church by his parish priest just before Christmas in a little parish Church down Geelong way. All I’m saying is that this simply isn’t “our style”.

3) “and implied that their support for Father Cutié may be fickle (“they’ve just snared the biggest fish of their lives…before tossing it back in the water or…?”).”

Well, okay, guilty as charged on this account too. I hope Mr and Mrs Cutie are fulfilled in their new life as Episcopalians. I really do.

To sum all this up.

I am completely and totally committed to the Catholic faith and to the Catholic Church. That’s why I call this blog “Sentire Cum Ecclesia”.

I am completely and totally committed to the ecumenical endeavour, that is, to seeking the full, visible unity of all Christians.

In particular, it is my most ardent desire to do all I can to foster good relations between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church here and elsewhere. While I respect the reasons why Lutherans in this country continue to remain apart from the communion of the Catholic Church, I can myself truly see no good reason why any faithful Lutheran should do so, and I long for the day when I will once again be able to kneel with all my Lutheran friends and family at the altar of the Lord to receive his precious mysteries.

(And it would be really neat if all my other Anglican and protestant friends were able to join us there too!)

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12 Comments

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12 responses to ““Bagging Lutherans” on SCE?

  1. No need to publish this, and maybe the idea is too mundane for this blog, but I, for one, would be interested in reading a post which outlines how Lutheranism is broken out in Australia.

    For example, here in the U.S., we have the mainline/”liberal” ELCA, the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (more conservative and yes, anti-abortion), the Wisconsin Synod (even more conservative), and a host of smallish synods which also tend to be to the right. What’s the Lutheran situation in Australia?

    • Quite briefly, and indeed the facts can be given very briefly, there is only one Lutheran synod in Australia – the Lutheran Church of Australia. This synod is the result of one of the earliest ecumenical amalgamations in history, after years of dialogue beginning after the Second World War and reaching its conclusion in 1966 with the union of the Ev. Luth. Church in Aust. (affiliated wiyh Missouri) and the United Ev. Luth. Church in Aust. (affiliated with the Lutheran Church in Germany and LWF). To attain unity both churches severed their international relations; however these have been re-established over the years, and now the LCA is a member of the International Lutheran Council (Missouri dominated) and an associate member of LWF. As you can guess, holding this all together has been a bit of a tight-rope walking act, but the local Lutherans value their unity and no one faction has ever been able to dominate the synod (as can be seen most clearly in the repeated failure of the womens ordination vote to achieve 60 percent). It remains a generally conservative, confessional church, but evangelicalism is making huge in roads, causing it at once to become more conservative and less confessional, although the liberal wing is quite active among the urban educated. There have been very small break away groups of two or three congregation s (right wing) over the years, but these are of no real significance to anyone but God alone. Then there are also the various small ethnic parishes with clergy supplied by continental or Asian synods, but generally these are in communion with the LCA even if the LCA is not in communion with the parent body – a good arrangement!

      I hope that answers your question.

  2. Deacon Phil Roberge

    Re: the sensational treatment of Fr. Cutie’s jump to Episcopalianism, you stated “All I’m saying is that this simply isn’t ‘our style’.” It’s not just a matter of style, but of Ritual:

    Regarding the reception of baptized Christians, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) states that “any appearance of triumphalism should be carefully avoided” (RCIA 475.2).

    • I say, thanks for that, Deacon Phil. I didn’t know about that quote, but it backs up precisely what I was thinking. To think with the Church is, after all, our motto here at SCE!

  3. Arabella

    Hello David,

    I can see the point of view of the potential SCE commentator regarding “bagging the Lutherans”.

    I’ll e-mail you. I do not have time to to provide a coherent reply here, now. I’ve largely given up commenting on blogs.

    • Anna

      Hello Arabella,
      nice to see your name in print again. I am almost at the same stage of avoidence. Its tooooo hard.
      and life has enough “hard” without looking for more.
      Blessings on your life
      Anna

  4. Indeed it does. Thanks, David.

  5. I don’t think either Peter or Jennifer were passing a canonical ruling on the ecclesiological authenticity of the ELCA

    That’s right. Someone mentioned the ELCA health insurance included abortion, I simply provided a reference to a female ‘pastor’ who cites this as the crisis which led to her eventual reception into the Church.

  6. The Welsh Jacobite

    I happen to think that the Cutie affair has been handled very badly by the Episcopalians (an opinion shared by some Episcopalian commentators), but addressing solely the question of the bishop’s involvement, my understanding is that a priest from another jurisdiction (whether Roman Catholic or Orthodox) has to be received by the diocesan bishop. (This of course does not explain the involvement of another bishop and two priests or excuse the impression of triumphalism that, whether intentionally or negligently, has been given.)

  7. Your criticiser wrote:

    5) “published (again without apparent criticism) Joshua’s comment which implies that a female pastor of the ELCA who sought an abortion “would be more honest if she worshipped Ishtar or Moloch.”

    David, you wrote:

    That was Joshua’s point of view, not mine. His name, not mine, was on the comment. I am sure Josh would stand by his point of view. Was it immoderate? You judge.

    ******

    Well, I do stand by my use of hyperbole to express horror and outrage at the shocking fact that an ELCA female Pastor can get her own church body, via its insurance agency, to pay for her getting an abortion! This is so dreadful that it is comparable only to idolatry, that is, devil worship, and of the very sort the Bible particularly condemns – the worship of Moloch in particular, which involved the ritual slaughter of children.

    (I mentioned Ishtar because there is or was a US Unitarian lady minister, I think, who did openly worship Ishtar.)

    What part of this is so offensive – my reaction, or its cause?

    Some things one cannot be polite about… I can hardly imagine Catholic clergy at an ecumenical gathering demurely smiling while Pastor Jessica tells them about her church which so kindly paid for her to have an abortion! That would be revolting.

  8. matthias

    my computer breaks down and is away at the tech “doctors’ and I miss out on all the fun.
    I agree wholeheartedly with Joshua’s comments ,that any minister who seeks an abortiobn for themselves ,is worshipping at the altar of ishtar or Moloch. Let us remember that the Moabites practised child sacrifice as part of their religion,and abortion is often the way out for people who do not want to have a child interrupting their lifestyle. Yep child sacrifice in another name.
    As for triumphalism,go to some Baptist or Pentecosatl churches and see it in practice almost every Sunday.
    And Schutz ,having been a member of the Lutheran Church where your good friend was my Pastor,i know that he was one of the prime movers for the agreement on Justification between catholics and lutherans. Perhaps we will all kneel and take communion together one day ,but if not in this life then it will surely be on that Great Day.

  9. Pax

    I am sure the day will come when we will all kneel together again-it is something worth praying and working toward since Jesus began with one Church by end times I am sure we will be as one again. Fortunately God has endless patience with all of us and fraternal charity as modelled by John 23rd will help that day come even sooner.I am sure among the saints in heaven are many devout Lutheran and Episcopalian clergy and laity.God reads the heart and knows His sheep.