Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Answering a Protestant Answer to Why There is Animosity Between Catholics and Protestants

SWB: Came across this gem the other day. I don’t know why I do this to myself. It just irks me. The anti-Catholic ignorance and the latent hostility are unnecessary and unneeded. It certainly did not live up to its seemingly even-handed title.  Sad.  Thought I’d give the other side to this decidedly one-sided answer. My answers are in blue, but also labeled SWB (St. Walburga's Blog) in case the colors cannot be seen.

SWB: On a site called “” I found this:

Question: "Catholic vs. Protestant – why is there so much animosity?"

SWB: Maybe others can see that this article seems like it would be balanced. However, I was mistaken as claims to be a "volunteer ministry of dedicated and trained servants who have a desire to assist others in their understanding of God, Scripture, salvation, and other spiritual topics. We are Christian, Protestant, conservative, evangelical, fundamental, and non-denominational." If I'd read that in the first place, I'd have understand that the article would not be balanced.

Answer: [1st para]
This is a simple question with a complicated answer, because there are varying degrees of, and reasons for, animosity between any two religious groups.

SWB: True. There is often animosity between two “religious groups.” However, Catholics and Protestants are both Christian groups. We should have much, much less animosity and much more brotherhood and cooperation. Sure there are doctrinal differences and many prejudices but we are still on the same side. We are all doing our best to follow our Lord’s teachings to the best of our ability.

This particular battle is rooted in history.

SWB: Obviously, “This particular battle” refers to Protestants v. Catholics, but the author does not state it here.

Degrees of reaction have ranged from friendly disagreement (as reflected in the numerous ecumenical dialogues produced between the two groups), to outright persecution and murder of Protestants at the hands of Rome.

SWB:First of all, very little “persecution and murder” happened to Protestants at Catholic hands.  If the author is referring to the approximately 300 years of the Medieval Inquisition, there were in fact less than 300 heretics (not Protestants) convicted or executed; the except to that fact was one “inquisitor” who persecuted the Cathars (a Catholic order of knights) for political reasons and had them declared heretics and had dozens of them executed, leading to the end of the medieval inquisition sanctioned by Rome. And, if this person or any Protestant researched history they’d learn that most people in the middle ages preferred to be tried by the inquisition than local courts because they were guaranteed a much more fair trial. (Just a side note: The Catholic Church did not try or burn anyone accused of being a witch. That was the Protestants, who brought about the death of many women in the “new world.”  Catholic inquisitors generally felt  such accusations were nonsense.)

SWB: Second, if the author is referring to the Roman Inquisition which only had jurisdiction in Rome and the papal states and continued into the 18th century, it only tried a few dozen “heretics” executing a handful in its about 200 year existence.  If he is referring to the Spanish Inquisition of 1492 into the early 1500's only Jewish and a few Moorish converts to the Church were accused, tried and executed. These trials more of a political than religious nature, as the king and queen really needed to see where people’s loyalties lay in the wake of the defeat of the Muslims and their centuries of rule in Spain. Neither of these inquisitions persecuted or “murdered” Protestants.

SWB:Third, the fact is many, many more Catholics were persecuted and murdered under tyrants like Calvin, Elizabeth I, and princes of Luther’s Germany than all the years of the Inquisition combined.  Catholics were persecuted in Britain and then Ireland (that’s why Ireland is divided today—because the British monarch tried to force Protestantism on the Catholic population of Ireland.) Catholics were persecuted and even outlawed in many of the states of the what would become the United States. One example of the continued prejudice in the US is a history of my state for use by homeschool families. It claimed the earliest church established here was a Church of Christ church early in the 20th century. There is no mention of the Catholic church and mission established in the late 18th century and the FACT that many of the Indian tribes here were practicing Catholics when Protestant missionaries deigned to come here. At least these facts are being stated at the state history museum.  Anyway, back to the original “answer.”

Reformation teachings that identify the Pope as the Beast of Revelation and / or Roman Catholicism as Mystery Babylon are still common among Protestants. Clearly, anyone with this view is not going to “warm up” to Rome any time soon.

SWB: All I can say is that this is very true, that is that Catholics will not “warm up” to Protestants who claim to believe this. There is absolutely no evidence that the Beast of Revelation is the Church—none. No matter how you twist the words of St. John, his vision of the "beast" does not indicate the Church. Seeing that St. John was one of the Apostles of Christ and a founder of His Church, now called Catholic (btw, named such by St. Ignatius, a disciple of St. John), why would he aid in the founding of a Church that was a “beast” in his vision? It makes no logical sense. Besides, it is blatantly obvious that Jerusalem is the “whore of Babylon”—the city of seven hills and unfaithful to God. The "beast" is still a mystery.

[2nd para] For the most part, today at least, the animosity comes from basic human nature when dealing with fundamental disagreement over eternal truths. Passions are sure to ignite in the more weighty matters of life, and one's faith is (or at least should be) at the top of the heap.

SWB: I would agree, however, those claiming to be Christians should be able to act with charity towards other Christians and at least be open to the possibility that we are all sincerely following Christ the way we feel is right. I honestly do not understand the close-mindedness of the majority of Protestants in thinking that Catholics are not Christians.

Many Protestants think Roman Catholics teach a works-gospel that cannot save,…

SWB: The Catholic Church has never taught a “works-gospel”. The Church teaches what Christ taught.  He directed His followers to DO.  
"In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me." and He said "In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me. And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life.' (Matt. 25: 40, 45-46) 

SWB: Jesus taught that we have to act upon our faith, and if we don't we will be punished. This is a clear teaching that "works" are necessary to our faith and our salvation.  

SWB: The Holy Spirit inspired James, an apostle of Jesus, to write that works are necessary for salvation.

How does it help, my brothers, when someone who has never done a single good act claims to have faith? Will that faith bring salvation?
If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, 'I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty,' without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that?

In the same way faith, if good deeds do not go with it, is quite dead.

But someone may say: So you have faith and I have good deeds? Show me this faith of yours without deeds, then! It is by my deeds that I will show you my faith.
You believe in the one God -- that is creditable enough, but even the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear.
Fool! Would you not like to know that faith without deeds is useless?
Was not Abraham our father justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar? So you can see that his faith was working together with his deeds; his faith became perfect by what he did. (James 2: 14-22)
 SWB: I do have to say that I find it amusing that Protestants claim to use Scripture as their final authority, yet they ignore inconvenient passages of Scripture. I posit that many if not most Protestants have decided or learned certain doctrines and find passages they think supports their beliefs, while ignoring passages they can't explain away without twisting what Scripture actually says.  Christ said we must do acts of charity or we will suffer eternal punishment; that is a clear command. James, the Apostle, said faith without works is dead, and a dead faith cannot save you. But, Catholics believe exactly what Christ and His Apostle taught, but we're the ones accused of not following Scripture. Strange.

…while Roman Catholics think Protestants teach easy-believism [sic] that requires nothing more than an emotional outburst brought on by manipulative preaching.

SWB: As a former Baptist (I became a Catholic Christian at age 36, so it was not naïve), I can attest that this is true, at least in my experience. People would go forward at the “altar call” time and again at church, when is the conversion true? When is it the one?  Our (Baptist) church was very emotional. Most of what I learned in church was fluff. I went to a Baptist college; it left me wanting something more substantive. The Catholic Church is always accused of having people blindly follow doctrines; I found that was much truer in the Protestant churches I attended than the Catholic Church. The majority of the Southern, Independent, and Regular Baptist churches, and the Lutheran and Episcipal churches I attended as an adult told the people that they must believe the pastor’s interpretation of Scripture or they’d be going to Hell.

Protestants blame Catholics for worshipping [sic] Mary,..

SWB: I think “blame” is the wrong word here. Protestants accuse Catholics of worshiping Mary. I believe many relish the accusation because they think it is a slam dunk in helping them convince people that Catholics are not Christians. It simply is not true; Catholics do not worship Mary. No matter how many ways and how often it is explained this accusation will continue. It is a favorite anti-Catholic lie.

… and Catholics think Protestants are apparently too dull to understand the distinctions Rome has made in this regard.

SWB: I don’t believe that is a correct characterization. I don’t know any Catholics, at least any who publicly debate Protestants, who think that Protestants are “too dull” to understand.  In point of fact, most Catholics try to give Protestants the benefit of the doubt that they simply have not heard the arguments for the distinctions. Protestants for the most part simply refuse to see or acknowledge the distinction between the honor we give to the Mother of our Savior and the worship we give God alone.  Mary was after all extremely blessed by God.  She carried God the Son in her womb. She was Christ’s first believer and follower. She is a model of Christian womanhood and a beautiful soul. It is a wonder to me, now, that Protestants are so hateful to Christ’s mother. After all, being disrespectful to anyone’s mother will not endure anyone to another, especially Christ. Even if Protestants refuse to honor her, they should at the very least not be unkind about her.

These caricatures are often difficult to overcome.    

SWB: True, and some caricatures perpetuated in this very article.

[3rd para] Behind the particular disagreements over the role of faith and works, the sacraments, the canon of Scripture, the role of the priesthood, prayers to saints, and all the issues surrounding Mary and the Pope, etc., lies the biggest rift between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism: the issue of authority.    SWB: Very True.   How one answers the authority question will generally inform all the other issues. When it comes down to deciding a theological issue about defined Catholic dogma, there isn’t really much to discuss on the Catholic's side because once Rome speaks, it is settled.

SWB: Yes, when Rome speaks, it is settled.  However, the Church neither asks us to be nor assumes us to be mindless drones. Study of Scripture and Church theology is encouraged. There are many, many resources available to Catholics or anyone interested in the Catholic Church if they have any questions. These resources include but are not limited to the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, EWTN television and radio, numerous Catholic online outlets such as Catholic Answers, Catholic Bridge, the Vatican website, and many more.

This is a problem when trying to debate a Roman Catholic – reason and Scripture are not the Catholic’s final authority; they can always retreat into the “safe zone” of Roman Catholic authority.

SWB: Protestant perception of Catholic surety as retreat is simply false perception. In point of fact, the majority of Catholic History is one of reason. The Church was the foremost supporter of science throughout history (many of the science discoveries were made by monks). The University system in Europe was built by monks. The earliest private school in America was founded by a nun. Most Catholics who publicly debate Protestants have studied theology for years; they have questioned and studied what the Church teaches through her Christ-given authority. The Church, in fact, encourages inquiry and study. The Protestant’s false characterization of the simple mindedness of Catholics is simply that—false.  The “safe zone” is the two millennia of study and reasoning that can be tested and its truth and consistency relied on.

Thus, many of the arguments between a Protestant and a Catholic will revolve around one's “private interpretation” of Scripture as against the "official teachings of the Roman Catholic Church."

SWB: I would agree with that only if the author also agrees that “private interpretation” not only has led to many diverse Protestant sects who claim to know the “truth” but also makes each individual (or at least there pastor or leader) their own pope, since they brook no argument of their “private interpretation”. And, I would posit that the arguments revolve around individual Protestant interpretations (which by the way cannot all be true) and the study and reasoned theology of a Catholic (which have arrived at one truth).

Catholics claim to successfully avoid the legitimate problems of private interpretation by their reliance on their tradition.

SWB: Actually, no, Catholics claim that they can study the actual words of Christ, His Apostles, and the many, many generations of theologians to approach “legitimate problems.” Two thousand years of theology and debate carry much more weight than one man's "private interpretation"  Two thousand years of consistent, intelligent, deep thought and debate is pretty compelling to billions of Catholics.

But this merely pushes the question back a step. The truth is that both Roman Catholics and Protestants must, in the end, rely upon their reasoning abilities (to choose their authority) and their interpretive skills (to understand what that authority teaches) in order to determine what they will believe. Protestants are simply more willing to admit that this is the case.

SWB: I love how the thousands of reinterpretations and “truths” are considered reasoned. To admit that, one is simply willing to reject two millennia of teaching and that seems awfully unreasoned. Catholics, at least all those I know that debate Protestants, readily “admit” that they rely upon their own reasoning ability. They (Catholics) are just more willing to actually study the theology and the history of the Church. Protestants unnecessarily start from scratch again and again.

[4th para] Both sides can also be fiercely loyal to their family's faith or the church they grew up in without much thought to doctrinal arguments.

SWB: That is not always true.  In point of fact, I know of many, many converts to Catholicism. Many of whom were “fiercely loyal” to the faith they grew up in, but could not in all consciousness stay a Protestant after years of studying the Catholic Faith. That includes me. I studied the Catholic Faith for several years before I entered an RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) class, where I questioned everything.  I did not convert mindlessly or out of loyalty. I became a Catholic because the Holy Spirit answered all my questions at RCIA and led me to the Truth. Christ established one Church, one Body, one Faith. He did not want us to be divided.  His Body was and is to be one.

Obviously, there are a lot of possible reasons for the division between Catholicism and Protestantism, and while we should not divide over secondary issues, both sides agree that we must divide when it comes to primary issues. Beyond that, we can agree to disagree and worship where we find ourselves most in agreement.

SWB: If only we could “agree to disagree.” In my experience as a Catholic, we are much more willing to find commonalities and work together. Christians should treat each other with dignity, respect, and charity. I’ve seen time and time again where Catholics would extend a hand of friendship and cooperation only to be scorned and rebuffed. However and despite our differences, we need to have a united front in the face of the growing violent, Muslim threat. We cannot win souls to Christ with all our infighting. Protestants would do good to at the very least admit that Catholics are sincere, believing Christians. We would all get along better.

When it comes to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, the differences are just too great to ignore. However, that does not give license for caricatures or ignorant judgments…

SWB: Some of which were included in this article.

 – both sides need to be honest in their assessments and try not to go beyond what God has revealed.

SWB: I agree. I know that the Church does teach what God revealed, and nothing else.

SWB: My recommended resources: Catholic Answers,  Catholic Bridge,

SWB: For anyone who cares, I did earn a Bachelor's Degree (Summa Cum Laude) in Catholic Theology, which makes me just as qualified to speak on theology as those who anonymously author articles on

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