A recent post over at Vox Nova by Henry Karlson gives me an opportunity to address an issue that has been on my mind as of late: the state of evangelical-Catholic relations in the United States. It will likely surprise no one that my views on this matter are diametrically opposed to his. I believe this is the case, quite frankly, because Karlson – and he is far from alone in this, among his comrades – has a disordered hierarchy of values. He writes:
Vox Nova has for years pointed out the negative influence Evangelical Protestantism have had on American Catholics, where such Catholics have engaged Protestant sensibilities, turning their back on authentic Catholic teaching. It is easy to see how many American political ideologies have become a part of the religious faith of Catholics, so that when discussing religion, they end up echoing American political screeds.
So much for ecumenicism! Somehow Catholic dissent on torture is to be blamed on the influence of high-profile conservative evangelical converts, i.e.:
[T]hose who mock Catholic social doctrine in Papal Encyclicals and those who think intrinsic evils, such as torture, is [sic] fine…
I wonder to which conservative evangelicals Karlson might point to explain left-wing dissident Catholic acceptance of intrinsic evils such as abortion and the perversion of marriage.
In order to understand this matter at all, we have to understand that while they overlap and intersect in many places, religion and politics are not one, nor should they be. Aside from non-negotiable issues, and I agree with Karlson at least on the point that torture is one of them, Catholics are under no obligation to categorically reject “American political ideologies” as if they were the graven images of Baal.
The reference to “American political ideologies” is all the more absurd when one considers a) that the “ideology” most publicly supportive of torture, neo-conservatism, is deeply rooted in Leo Strauss’s views of European philosophy as well as disillusionment with Trotskyism, and b) that the ideologies, at least on the right, most opposed to torture – libertarianism and paleo-conservatism – pride themselves on a much more solid foundation in Anglo-American political thought. Has he never heard of Ron Paul’s position on torture?
It is arguable at any rate that many of the policy positions held by Karlson and some of his co-bloggers violate the principle of subsidarity, though this is neither tantamount to theological dissent or a lapse of personal piety.
I read a comment a few weeks ago on GetReligion.org attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).
This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.
Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.
But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.
Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:
Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.
As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).
Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.
The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism Because Nonsensical Believers & Non Believers Are Unwittingly Showing Many the Way
Throughout the last few years and specifically the last decade or so, the voluminous number of kooky quotes and statements coming from religious believers (heterodox Catholics included) and non believers alike is mind boggling. It can’t but help push the reasonable minded into the Catholic Church. Most casual observers are familiar with the number of high profile converts and reverts to the Catholic Church in the last 25 years or so. They range from theological luminaries like Dr Scott Hahn and Dr Francis Beckwith to political figures like Deal Hudson, Laura Ingraham and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Many like them have come to the Church after years of study and reason, but many also have come to the Church after years of seeing their particular religious denomination become unrecognizable.
The latest world calamity has given us two examples of sheer kookery coming from a religious leader and a secular voice. After the horrific earthquake that left the western world’s most impoverished nation in tatters, the Reverend Pat Robertson chimed in with a quote that was not only tragically insensitive but historically inaccurate. The onetime presidential candidate (who actually came in second in the 1988 GOP Iowa Caucus) and a leading voice of the Evangelical world blamed the earthquake on Voodoo, a cult that sadly far too many people practice in Haiti. Robertson voiced his opinion on his popular 700 Club television program. Robertson repeated the fundamentalist canard that in the early 1800s the leaders of a slave revolt fighting against French colonial forces forged a pact with the Satan to thrown off the chains of their oppressors.
For the benefit of Mr. Robertson. The Haitians revolted during the French Revolution and the reign of Napoleon I. The Haitians were never ruled by Napoleon III (1852-1870), having their independence recognized in 1825 by France. Although Voodoo has been sadly ubiquitous in Haiti, there is no evidence of a pact between Satan and Haitian insurgents, although Robertson is not the only person to propound this myth, which is quite common in some evangelical circles. A good article debunking this myth is here and here. This of course is far from the first time that Pat Robertson has said something factually challenged and insulting, although considering the vastness of the tragedy, Robertson expounding his kook theory at this point as Haiti mourns countless dead and lies prostrate is truly beneath contempt. Certain Catholic religious orders enjoin silence for the good of the souls of their members. Mr. Robertson could benefit by following their example.
For those wishing to donate to Catholic Relief Services for Haiti, here is a link.
For many Christians today, the thought that the leaders of the Protestant Reformation believed in the Immaculate Conception of Mary or her bodily Assumption into heaven would seem ludicrous, even more bewildering would be the devotions many of the Reformation’s leaders had for the Blessed Mother. Believe or not it, they did. In this month of December when Catholics celebrate three feast day’s commemorating the Mother of our Lord, perhaps it is time to remind our separated brethren of the truths their founder’s believed.
Sometime ago when I was writing my book, The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism, I showed a friend of mine, who is an Evangelical, a homily about the Virgin Mary delivered in the 1500s. I asked him who gave that homily, “probably some pope,” he exclaimed. No, I said it was Martin Luther. He replied, “Dave I trust in almost everything you say, but I am going to have to call you out on this one. I mean isn’t that what the Reformation was all about, ending superstitions like those about Mary?” His mouth dropped when I showed him the passages. I am sure many of today’s Evangelicals, especially of the Calvinist lineage, would have the same reaction.