Charlotte Hays—The Beginning of the Reformation’s End?

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The service was conducted by Father Eric Bergman, a Yale Divinity School-educated former Episcopal clergyman who was ordained a Catholic priest in 2007. Father Bergman stresses that this is not an overture to effete Episcopalians who are angry about changes in their church and want to sneak into the Catholic Church bringing nothing more than their pretty music. Being "angry about Gene Robinson," he says of the openly homosexual bishop of New Hampshire, isn't enough reason to become a Catholic. There must be a real conversion to the tenets of Catholicism.

Father Bergman says he began his journey to the Catholic Church by thinking about something that has taken many liberal Catholics out of the church: contraception. He regards Anglicanism's 1930 embrace of contraception as a mistake: "Out of that came a confusion about the roles of men and women, a theology of androgyny," he says.

Father Bergman and his wife, Kristina, have six children. They and more than 60 members of his Episcopal parish came into the Catholic Church in 2005. He is now chaplain of the St. Thomas More Society in Scranton, Pa., which seeks to establish Anglican Use parishes.

Naturally, many liberal Catholics are less than thrilled at the prospect of stodgy former Episcopalians importing traditional opinions along with their non-Catholic thou's and thy's. In a Nov. 23, 2009, story "Where Hype Meets Reality," the liberal National Catholic Reporter pooh-poohed the idea of large numbers of Anglicans coming in under the pope's new rules.

But Father Bergman not only predicts a mass movement toward Rome. He believes Anglican Use may mark the beginning of the end of the Reformation.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalArchbishop of Canterbury Anglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)Episcopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeLiturgy, Music, Worship* Religion News & CommentaryEcumenical RelationsOther ChurchesRoman CatholicPope Benedict XVI

Posted February 26, 2010 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

“Being “angry about Gene Robinson,” he says of the openly homosexual bishop of New Hampshire, isn’t enough reason to become a Catholic. There must be a real conversion to the tenets of Catholicism.”
“If we look at histories, heresies run themselves out after about 500 years. I believe we are seeing the last gasp of the Reformation in the mainline Protestant groups.”
Nice to see that Father Bergman is clear on what he believes. There is an issue of core doctrine here. Anyone who agrees with him that the Protestant view on Justification is a heresy should be in the Roman Catholic Church. Those of us who believe that Rome anathematized the Gospel at Trent should not be in the Roman Catholic Church.

February 26, 10:49 am | [comment link]
2. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:


The Common Understanding of Justification
In faith we together hold the conviction that justification is the work of the triune God. The Father sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The foundation and presupposition of justification is the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Christ. Justification thus means that Christ himself is our righteousness, in which we share through the Holy Spirit in accord with the will of the Father. Together we confess: By grace alone, in faith in Christ’s saving work and not because of any merit on our part, we are accepted by God and receive the Holy Spirit, who renews our hearts while equipping and calling us to good works.”

by the Lutheran World Federation and the Catholic Church

I am an Evangelical pietist and I can affirm this declaration of Justification.

I don’t think that is the issue any more.  I think that there are a few other things like the excessive Marian dogma, Papal infallibility, transubstantiation, to name a few.

If the Reformation is over, the Reformers have won.  The central issue was Justification and the Roman Catholic Church has substantively changed and come into accord with the critique of the Reform movement.

I have very strongly considered converting to either the Roman or Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church…but I am conscious bound by what are in my opinion two fundamental issues.  The sacrament is in my view a memoriam with profound mystical and spiritual realities, but not a literal transformation of the material substances.  Mary, while most definitely blessed, was not sinless herself and I see no Scriptural evidence that she was whisked up to heaven like Enoch.

I think those are my two remaining objections.  I long for Christian unity and would push aside as much as I am able any other cultural biases.  It greatly saddens me that I would not be accepted as a Catholic because of these issues, yet Catholics can be members of the Church and hold to abortion on demand and a host of other anti-Christian beliefs…look at all the politicians that publicly and actively flaunt the Church’s teachings on these issues and yet are still members of the Catholic Church.  Yet I, with my strongly held Biblical views that are a matter of conscience, am left outside the Catholic Church.

It makes me very sad.  Yet, I rejoice that I am part of the catholic Church, with Christ at the head.  Someday, we will be united and our Lord will heal us all.

February 26, 11:41 am | [comment link]
3. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

oops…conscience bound, not conscious bound

February 26, 11:52 am | [comment link]
4. David Fischler wrote:

STN: The Eastern Orthodox do not dogmatically hold to transubstantiation, the immaculate conception, or the assumption. (When you referred to “Eastern Orthodox Catholic” I assume you meant the Uniate churches, yes?) You might find Constantinople more congenial than Rome.

February 26, 12:01 pm | [comment link]
5. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

Thank you David, that was kind.  I will dig a little deeper and continue to investigate.

February 26, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
6. CanaAnglican wrote:

The Beginning of the Reformation’s End?

Probably more like the end of the beginning.

February 26, 2:08 pm | [comment link]
7. New Reformation Advocate wrote:

Well, the signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) on Oct. 31st, 1999 by leading Lutheran and Catholic theologians does mark at least a highly significant truce, if not an end to the old Reformation battles.  There are still many obstacles to overcome on the way to recovering true unity in the Body of Christ, but in some ways we’ve seen a very remarkable and welcome convergence within the western Christian world.  At Vatican II, Rome did begin to accept much of the Protestant critique of medieval abuses (including returning the liturgy to the language of the people, encouraging Bible study, throwing out the widespread idea that Scripture and Tradition were two separate sources of authority in the Church, and so on).  And similarly, many oldline Protestants have embraced the lectionary and many of the fruits of the liturgical renewal movement, including weekly communion.

In 2008, prominent evangelical church historian Mark Noll (who formerly taught at good old Wheaton College and now teaches at Notre Dame) came out with a fine, balanced book called, Is the Reformation Over?  His basic answer: not yet.  But I’d agree with him that it’s amazing how many of the causes of division almost 500 years ago no longer divide some Catholics and some Protestants.

David Handy+

February 26, 2:46 pm | [comment link]
8. Conchúr wrote:

Rome did begin to accept much of the Protestant critique of medieval abuses (including returning the liturgy to the language of the people…

Liturgy in a sacred tongue is not, nor ever has been, a “medieval abuse”.

February 26, 3:23 pm | [comment link]
9. Ad Orientem wrote:

Re # 4
David (& STN)
A couple of quick points.  We Orthodox most emphatically do believe in the Real Presence at Holy Communion.  The term “transubstantiation” is western, and is not widely used by us.  But there is no substantive differences between Rome and Orthodoxy on this subject.  If anything, I would suggest that we Orthodox take the teaching more seriously than many Roman Catholics today.  Not only do we bar non-Orthodox from the chalice but in many Orthodox jurisdictions (especially the Russians, Serbians and the Jerusalem Patriarchate) only those who have been to confession very recently may take communion.  I have seen priests actually grill would be communicants before the chalice, especially if they don’t know them personally.

“Are you Orthodox?”  “Did you keep the fasts all week?”  “Have you been to confession within the last 24 hrs?”

As for the Assumption, that would fall under the heading of theologumena.  It is a pious belief that is not defined as dogma by us.  However, that belief is so widespread within Orthodoxy that it is not controversial.

The Roman Dogma of the Immaculate Conception (IC) is more controversial and is generally not accepted within Orthodoxy.  This is due to a very different understanding of sin and grace than what is commonly believed by Rome.  Rome (and for that matter most Protestants) hold views on sin and grace that were very heavily influenced by the writing of blessed Augustine of Hippo.  While he is commemorated as a saint by us, it is more for his personal sanctity than his theological opinions, many of which are highly controversial in the Christian East.

Under the mercy,

February 26, 3:56 pm | [comment link]
10. Frank Fuller wrote:

Would it not be fun to list some of the things that contemporary Roman Catholic conservatives believe or consent to, or deny, that would have made them at least suspect if not heretical in, say, 1549?  Full disclosure is a great antidote to self-righteousness.

February 26, 4:18 pm | [comment link]
11. phil swain wrote:

Don’t be a tease, Frank, I can’t wait to read your list.

February 26, 5:53 pm | [comment link]
12. Trad Catholic wrote:

Sorry, Nuance, but justification was not the central issue at the Reformation.  Ecclesiology was.  The Reformers innovated with their two-step justification/sanctification (even McGrath agrees it was an innovation) but they ended up at the same place.  Catholics can affirm salvation by grace through faith alone—the only difference is over whether it’s faith formed in charity (James) or not.  And since all Protestants add the “formed in charity” part back in via sanctification and rejected antinomianism, that’s not the root issue.  Yes, double predestination, to the degree that it was embraced by Protestants, is not acceptable for Catholicism, but that’s not the major issue.  Yes Luther and Calvin denied free will and that’s a major difference, but, . . . did they?  Almost all diehard Calvinists I’ve met back away it in one way or another.  But even so, the rest of Protestantism restored free will in one way or another, esp. in Evangelicalism/Pietism.

The reformers differed on the nature of the Eucharistic presence or absence, on infant baptism, on the nature of the sacraments and so on.

What did they agree on: the Continental Reformers agreed on rejecting bishops in apostolic succession and rejecting the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice.  These, I submit, were the central issues.  And the Church of England, of course, was divided on these matters which is why it has one foot inside and one outside the Reformation, though I would tend to emphasize he Protestantism of the early stages more than some might.

Regarding the Immaculate Conception: it’s really simply a function of the choice to use “sin” to describe the original state of man post-Fall.  Orthodox don’t call that state sin; Catholics since Anselm and Innocent III use the term “sin” but with an asterisk to remind us that it’s not actual sin, not freely chosen.

Orthodox and Catholics agree that Mary was sinless, as the New Eve.  If Orthodox did use the term “sin” for the original state, the question of whether Mary was subject to that state would arise for them.  But they don’t so it doesn’t.  With respect, I wish that Orthodox would avoid emphasizing that they don’t believe in the Immaculate Conception like those Latins do.  It’s misleading to do that—we agree on Mary’s sinlessness.  We disagree about the original state (though even there I think we end up at the same place by different routes, but that’s another subject for another time).

February 26, 8:55 pm | [comment link]
13. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

#12 Trad Catholic

I’m not going to argue the point, but I will direct you to what is written in the statement:


by the Lutheran World Federation
and the Catholic Church


1.The doctrine of justification was of central importance for the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was held to be the “first and chief article”[1] and at the same time the “ruler and judge over all other Christian doctrines.”[2] The doctrine of justification was particularly asserted and defended in its Reformation shape and special valuation over against the Roman Catholic Church and theology of that time, which in turn asserted and defended a doctrine of justification of a different character. From the Reformation perspective, justification was the crux of all the disputes. (Emphasis added.)

The Roman Catholic Church signers were Cardinal Cassidy and Bishop Kasper. It was agreed to by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.  I do not claim to be an expert on the matter, so I defer to those that are and agree with the written statements I have quoted from their work.

February 26, 9:58 pm | [comment link]
14. Lutheran-MS wrote:

Evidently, Father Eric Bergman hasn’t heard of the LC-MS who still considers the office of the Papacy the anti-Christ.

February 26, 10:27 pm | [comment link]
15. Dr. William Tighe wrote:

Well, wrt #13, the very Preamble you cite contains the phrases “for the Lutheran Reformation” (but not for the Catholic Church), “was held to be” (i.e., by Protestants, not Catholics) and “From the Reformation perspective” (but not necessarily from the Catholic one).

This will hardly bear the weight that #s 2 and 13 (and maybe 7) wish to put on this agreement.

February 26, 11:25 pm | [comment link]
16. Trad Catholic wrote:

Nuance, what you quoted represents the perception of the Reformers.  Cardinals Cassidy and Kasper, as part of their portfolio did not get into an argument over just how central justification was, but, stipulating the Protestant claim, tried to do what they could to reach agreement on that issue.  As you undoubtedly are aware, both from the Protestant and Catholic side, the Agreed Statement was received with some misgiving.

Even the Protestant way of putting it in this Agreed Statement says merely that it was “of central importance” rather than “the central issue.”  Cardinals Cassidy and Kasper could in good conscience affirm that claim without thereby agreeing that it was “the” central issue.  But you then wrote: “If the Reformation is over, the Reformers have won.  _The_ central issue was Justification and the Roman Catholic Church has substantively changed and come into accord with the critique of the Reform movement.”

Not only do you make it “the” central issue but then use that “nuanced” misreading to claim “We Won.”

Sorry, but _the_ fundamental issues were ecclesiological: who has the authority to interpret Scripture authoritatively and how do we know that (by handed down Tradition or by historical scholarship)?

Finally, all of the theological issues: justification/sanctification, authority of bishops, interpretation of Scripture, Sacrifice of the Mass, role of Mary, reconciliation of sinners etc. could conceivably been resolved had the princes not chosen sides.  Nationalism had been aborning for several centuries; the 16th century represents the critical mass moment of that development in which the kings and princes and city councils finally had the power to crush the nobles and the bishops, arrogate all power to themselves and reduce the church in their territories to a department of state—de jure in England, Scandinavia and the German and Swiss principalities and city states in the 1500s, de facto in France, Spain, Austria over the next two centuries.

The fundamental theological issue was ecclesiological, the fundamental historical development was the rise of the consolidated absolutist state, big or small.  In that sentence I believe I have accurately summarized what happened in that “Reformation Era.”

It was not good.  It led eventually to the revolt against absoutism which produced religious tolerance, to be sure, but only by means of privatizing religion and taking it out of the public square, which is where we are now.  There were huge problems in church and state that needed to be addressed, to be sure.  But unfortunately, the cure was worse than the disease.  We cannot go back and undo the course of events, but we can clearsightedly acknowledge what happened instead of proclaiming victory for our side at the cost of blinding ourselves to what happened.

February 27, 12:53 pm | [comment link]
17. Trad Catholic wrote:

I should add, Nuance, that the Catholic Church has not changed anything about its teaching on justifiication from what Aquinas and Trent affirmed.  I have spent a few decades researching medieval theology and have concluded that salvation by grace through faith alone (faith formed in love) was taught clearly. That Luther did not see this tells us more about Luther than about his age. Karlfried Froehlich, Lutheran of many years teaching at a Reformed seminary (Princeton) in a magisterial survey of medieval soteriology affirmed that medieval theologians knew what Pelagianism was and pointedly avoided it, even if the decisions of Orange II were unknown to them—Aquinas reconstructed them by reading carefully the writings of later theologians.

I offer two texts as indications, from the supposedly Pelagian 15thc monkish works righteousness folks:
Hermann Josef Roth, “Die Zisterzienser,” in Orden und Klöster im Zeitalter vom Reformation und katholischer Reform 1500-1700, vol. 1, ed. Jürgensmeier, Friedhelm, and Schwerdtfeger, Regina Elisabeth, Katholisches Leben und Kirchenreform im Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung, 65 (Münster: Aschendorff, 2005), ch. 3, pp. 73-97, at 78: members of the community of Walkenried recited in chapter, officially, to Christ “durch welchen [wir] allein und wahrhaftig im Glauben gerechtfertigt [seien]. . . . nicht Mönchsgelübde, nicht Kukulle, weder Fasten noch irgendein menschliches Werk . . . vermag den Menschen zu retten.” (1469)
the Latin original is in Nicolaus Heutger, 850 Jahre Kloster Walkenried (Hildesheim, 1977), 56

English translation: reciting to Christ, “through whom [Christ] we alone solely and truly in faith are justified, [for]. . . neither by monk’s cowl nor fasting nor any kind of human work, may man be saved.”

or at Loccum in 1473), Engelbert Arnoldi, composed a Latin confession of faith: “. . . ich bin ein Mensch und ein großer Sünder, und an dir allein habe ich gesündigt.  Aber ich glaube, dass du, mein Herr, o Jesus Christus, allein meine Gerechtigkeit und Erlösung bist; und wie Abraham Gott geglaubt hat und dieser Glaube an Christus zum Heil genüge.  Lieber Herr, erbarme dich meiner nach deiner großen Barmherzigkeit.”
English: “I am a man and a great sinner and against you [Christ] alone have I sinned.  But I believe that you, my Lord, O Jesus Christ, alone are my righteousness and salvation; and that, as Abraham believed God and this faith in Christ suffices to save.  Dear Lord, have mercy on me according to your great mercy.”
from Hans Lilje, “Tradition und Gegenwart” in Loccum vivum (Hamburg, 1963), p. 18 as cited by Roth above.

I can give you many other citations of this sort.

Catholic theology on soteriology has not changed.  What has changed is that both sides have realized that they were fighting against caricatures.  I could spell this out at length, but won’t.  You seem to be working with some elements of the old caricatures.

February 27, 1:10 pm | [comment link]
18. Trad Catholic wrote:

Sorry, I left out “not by monastic vows” from my translation of the first text above.

February 27, 1:12 pm | [comment link]
19. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

The new Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification and the renewal of the inner man.’ (Par. 2029). ‘No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and others all the graces needed to attain eternal life. (par. 2027).’”

R. C. Sproul;
The question, “what must I do to be saved” is still a critical question for any person who is exposed to the wrath of God.
Even more critical than the question is the answer, because the answer touches the very heart of gospel truth. In the final analysis, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed at Trent and continues to affirm now that the basis by which God will declare a person just or unjust is found in one’s “inherent righteousness.” If righteousness does not inhere in the person, that person at worst goes to hell and at best (if any impurities remain in his life) goes to purgatory for a time that may extend to millions of years. In bold contrast to that, the biblical and Protestant view of justification is that the sole grounds of our justification is the righteousness of Christ, which righteousness is imputed to the believer, so that the moment a person has authentic faith in Christ, all that is necessary for salvation becomes theirs by virtue of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The fundamental issue is this: is the basis by which I am justified a righteousness that is my own? Or is it a righteousness that is, as Luther said, “an alien righteousness,” a righteousness that is extra nos, apart from us — the righteousness of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ? From the sixteenth century to the present, Rome has always taught that justification is based upon faith, on Christ, and on grace. The difference, however, is that Rome continues to deny that justification is based on Christ alone, received by faith alone, and given by grace alone. The difference between these two positions is the difference between salvation and its opposite. There is no greater issue facing a person who is alienated from a righteous God.
At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution. We’re living in a time where theological conflict is considered politically incorrect, but to declare peace when there is no peace is to betray the heart and soul of the gospel.

February 27, 1:20 pm | [comment link]
20. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

Well then, TC, I firmly remain an Evangelical pietistic Protestant.  I had naively supposed that there had been some middle ground established between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestants.  I guess I was very wrong.  Chalk it up to hopefulness for eventual Christian unity.

I claim no merit but Christ.
I claim no justification but Christ.
I claim no sanctification but Christ.
I claim no righteousness but Christ.
My salvation is, from first to last, from and by Christ Jesus.
He is the author and finisher of my faith.

Christ alone wears the crown.

February 27, 4:28 pm | [comment link]
21. Trad Catholic wrote:


I claim no merit but Christ.
I claim no justification but Christ.
I claim no sanctification but Christ.
I claim no righteousness but Christ.
My salvation is, from first to last, from and by Christ Jesus.
He is the author and finisher of my faith.

Every single one of these was affirmed by Thomas Aquinas, by Trent, by the monastic formulas I quoted.  Explicitly.

February 27, 5:41 pm | [comment link]
22. Sick & Tired of Nuance wrote:

Yep, that’s great.  It isn’t central to Roman Catholicism, but that’s great.  I remain as I was.  Different tribes…

February 27, 6:06 pm | [comment link]
23. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

Trad; why was it necessary for the Council of Trent to state; “CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema. ”

February 27, 6:43 pm | [comment link]
24. Trad Catholic wrote:

Jimmy DuPre,
Simply because the Reformers were defining faith as “not formed in love” and restricting justification to that faith (then putting the “formed in love” part back in via sanctification).  It’s not good theology.

I never said there was no disagreement.  I said that they ended up a much the same place by different routes.  But at the time the Reformers were sure that there was huge disagreement, so it had to be dealt with.

As I noted in earlier comments, the denial of free will was a serious matter (but, my Lutheran students almost always come back and say, but, but, but, but Luther didn’t mean thereby to reduce us to mere puppets in God’s hand or to say that that one can go out and sin without compunction—we are suppposed to [in sanctification, out of gratitude for extrinsic imputed justification] do good works.  And I say, yes, that’s my point.)

Here, I have been asserting that the problem at the time was the the Reformers were convinced that the Catholics were teaching Pelagian works-righteousness.  To guard against it, they developed a doctrine of finished justificiation plus sanctification that even their heirs, for the most part, did not stick with over the centuries.  Trent is in the middle of this situation and necessarily responds to it.

But had the Reformers given a fair reading to the Catholic soteriology of the day, their polemics would not have been necessary.  The soteriological questions and divide was very big and real at the time but was the result of misreadings and responses to misreadings.

The ecclesiological divide was even greater and more central.  It was based on an accurate reading but a mistaken response.  The accurate reading was that abuse of episcopal power was great.  The mistaken response, theologically, was to forget about abusus non tollit usum—in the face of great abuse, one does not throw out the use, if the use is true and authentic.  The Reformers concluded from abuse to a theological rejection of any Christ-authorized episcopal structure.  They thought they could substitute “authority of Scripture” for it.  But that begged the real question: who authoritatively interprets Scripture if not the bishops?  De facto in England it became an episcopacy subservient to the king/parliament—Erastian state-church, with an undercurrent of an authority of the professoriate trained in Greek and Hebrew.  On the Continent the professoriate trained in Greek and Hebrew perhaps was even more central, though state-churches emerged as well.

That was jumping from frying pan into fire.  As bad as the abuses of episcopal authority were, to go to “authority of Scripture” and princelly “Notbischof (prince as emergency bishop)” (Luther) was worse.  When the professoriate whose supposed expert philological skills, imbued with Holy Spirit unction, were to be the arbiters as advisors to kings and town councils, when that professoriate secularized in the Enlightenment, we get apostasy, held back to some degree by the Anglo-Catholicizing liturgical renewal in England and by pietism and revivalism there and on the Continent and America.  But the latter movements were anti-intellectual and vulnerable to “Schwaermerei” and that’s brought us to the present pass.

I might add that putting all one’s eggs in the basket of experts in Hebrew and Greek, in supposed “true” interpretation of Scripture as opposed to episcopal interpretation itself failed to understand how incomplete those early stages of recovery of Greek were.  Luther’s “forensic” reading of imputed, finished justification as the proper interpretation of Paul (which forced him to cut James adrift to land on the island of Sanctification) was based on a foolishly naive reading of dikao usage in secular Greek.  Philology in the humanist movement was too primitive to realize that Pauline use of dikao from the Septuagint may have been filled with Hebrew intrinsic righteousness content that had overwhelmed the merely forensic, courtroom acquittal language of secular Greek.  The humanists thought they had made a huge discovery: Catholic intrinsic righteousness was wrong because dikao meant mere courtroom acquittal in secular Greek sources.  They made that authoritative for interpreting Scripture, cast aside a millennium and a half of Catholic episcopal interpretation solely on authority of archaeologizing historical research and ended up with polemical “justification by faith (not formed in charity) alone.”

In short, they replaced the magisterium of bishops (based in tradition, including the Hebraized Greek Septuagint) with a magisterium of professors who leapfrogged over the centuries and misread their sources but were too enamoured of their newfound philological muscle to realize it was leading them astray.

Where have we seen that before?  In the Enlightenment desacralizing of revelation, in the current gay rereading of Scripture to justify what it plainly does not justify—what these have in common with the Reformers is a trust in historical scholarship over episcopal authority in unbroken tradition (even if some bishops horribly abused their authority in discipline and governance).  Historians qua historians are merely human and will read things into the record.

And that brings me to the ecclesiological crux.  If the traditional bishop-structure were merely a government of human, men, it too could not be trusted and would have to be abandoned because sooner or later it would “get the story [tradition] wrong.”  Only if the episcopal structure truly was Christ-authorized and Holy Spirit infallibly guided over the centuries can it be trusted to maintain (despite abuses and failures of individual bishops, even individual popes in discipline) the Story truly.  In the face of great abuses, the Reformers concluded that the episcopal structure and magisterium was a human invention, post-NT, not-Christ-authorized nor Christ-Holy-Spirit guided and had to be replaced.

That was a fateful conclusion because they had nothing to replace it.  They thought they were replacing it with “Scripture made alive by the Holy Spirit.”

But in practice, they were replacing it with professor-trained pastors relying on philological skills and Holy Spirit unction but with no way to resolve conflicts when two pastors, equally trained in Greek and Hebrew, equally claiming Holy Spirit unction, disagreed, as Luther and Zwingli did at Marburg.  The only possible default authority to adjudicate such disputes was the prince.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

The center of my research has been the powerful reform movements (including monastic) of the 1400s.  The failure was at the top—conciliarism (interference from princes doomed it), the hopeful papal reform of around 1450 which degenerated into the abusive Renaissance popes of the late 1400s etc.  And the imposed solution came from the top (Eamon Duffy’s thesis about England; Luther’s open embrace of the Notbischof prince, Zwingli’s open acceptance of city council authority in reform).  Had the people at the top done better, the grassroots reform might have blossomed without splintering Christendom.  But they did not and the cure was worse than the disease.

Had royal (or town council) absolutism not reached critical mass at exactly this time, I think things might have turned out differently.  But it did and things went the way they did.  Europe split into powerful nation states with th Church subordinate in both Catholic and Protestant states by 1640.  Weariness and disillusionment with that system and the religious wars it produced led eventually to the privatization of religion, which destroyed the culture, and permitted the other ills we now face—the anti-cultural assault on marriage, sexuality etc.

The above is why I say the real central issue was ecclesiological—but even the ecclesiological disputes might have been resolved within the Church had the state not taken over the Church in each nation-state or principality.

(Footnote: Luther’s radicalization occurred ecclesiologically—up to 1518 he was still debating theologian to theologian over soteriology, penance etc.  He was double-crossed by curial insiders, behind the pope’s back while debating Cajetan, and rightly was angry.  But his response was a misstep ecclesiologically: he concluded from the real abuses to reject the use and began calling the pope the antichrist, rejecting ecclesial principles in the 1520 treatises.  That was the point of no return.  It would have required great faith ecclesiologically in the Christ-authorized episcopal magisterium to endure the abuses he endured from the curia at that point.  But had his ecclesiological faith been strong enough, he could have done it—others have.)

February 28, 10:50 am | [comment link]
25. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

Would believing this; “XI. Of the Justification of Man.
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification” be an example of what Rome anathematized at Trent?

February 28, 11:51 am | [comment link]
26. Sarah wrote:

Certainly ecclesiology is a massive difference between Protestants and RCs.  Obviously Protestants like me don’t accept the claims of the RC church about itself—and that’s kind of a big deal.

But justification is a big deal as well—one of the “Big Five” for me, closely allied with the distinction between imputed and infused righteousness.  I believe the former.

I expect Eric Bergman is exactly where he needs to be, given most likely his theology while he was an Anglican.  Best for people who already believe RC doctrine and dogma to be in the RC church.  But the idea that Bergman’s now being in the church that matches his theology is not some sort of sign that the Reformation or the disagreements that led to it are at an end, much as the likes of Bergman and Hays would wish to think so.

February 28, 12:12 pm | [comment link]
27. Trad Catholic wrote:

Jimmy DuPre,
It’s ambiguous—as it was probably intended to be.  The answer probably lies in the Homily on Justification, which I haven’t read.  But it too may be a study in ambiguity.


I think your reading is probably just about what Charlotte Allen intended by her provocative title.  I think she and Eric Bergman are probably smart enough to know that obviously the Reformation is not over for those for whom the Reformation is not over.  Long ago the Catholic magisterium recognized that those who come generations after the schism, who have never known anything but the Protestant or Anglo-Catholic world they live in will, when looking across at presentations of Catholic doctrine, be colored by what Nuance calls “tribalism” and won’t necessarily see the same thing there as those either raised within that “tribe” or those raised outside it but who have, for whatever complicated reasons, come to view things from a new angle.  That’s why the category of invincible ignorance emerged.  And it’s another reason why Jimmy DuPre’s fascination with just what Trent anathematizes today is in some respects a side-issue.  Trent anathematized people in the sixteenth century who made first-generation choices.  A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then.  Qui potest capere, capiat.

February 28, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
28. Trad Catholic wrote:

Sorry, Charlotte Hays, not Charlotte Allen.

February 28, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
29. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

let your yes be yes…....unless you are RC, then nuance is a good thing. I would suggest that article 11 is not ambiguous at all. The word only means… only. The word accounted means that, lacking righteousness of our own, God is merciful in accounting us His own.

February 28, 6:33 pm | [comment link]
30. Sarah wrote:

Heh . . . a fun spin to read, worthy of Schori talking about TEC losses.

RE: “I think your reading is probably just about what Charlotte Allen intended by her provocative title.  I think she and Eric Bergman are probably smart enough to know that obviously the Reformation is not over for those for whom the Reformation is not over.”

I don’t think so.  I think Hays wanted to imply that . . . you know . . . there was actually an existing beginning of the Reformation’s end that has arrived.  She’d be wrong, of course—but hope seems to spring eternal.

I mean . . . I’m guessing she didn’t mean “the beginning of the Reformation’s end for those people like Trad Catholic and Eric Bergman who believe Roman Catholic doctrine and dogma anyway.”  ; > )

RE: “Long ago the Catholic magisterium recognized that those who come generations after the schism, who have never known anything but the Protestant or Anglo-Catholic world they live in will, when looking across at presentations of Catholic doctrine, be colored by what Nuance calls “tribalism” and won’t necessarily see the same thing there as those either raised within that “tribe” or those raised outside it but who have, for whatever complicated reasons, come to view things from a new angle.”

Which has no connection to those people who *have* known and explored something beyond “the Protestant or Anglo-Catholic world they live in. . . ” and calmly rejected RC doctrine and dogma.

But here . . . let me fix it for folks: “Long ago [Protestants] recognized that those who come generations after the schism, who have never known anything but the [Roman Catholic] world they live in will, when looking across at presentations of [Protestant] doctrine, be colored by what Nuance calls “tribalism” and won’t necessarily see the same thing there as those either raised within that “tribe” or those raised outside it but who have, for whatever complicated reasons, come to view things from a new angle.”

RE: “That’s why the category of invincible ignorance emerged.”

Now now . . . a little venom from an embittered RC never hurt any Protestant in the 21 century.  ; > )

February 28, 7:10 pm | [comment link]
31. Trad Catholic wrote:

Jimmy DuPre, the problem is not with the “only.”  Catholics can affirm that.  The ambiguity is in exactly how the “not for our own works” is to be taken—as totally exclusionary or not.  The canon from Trent that you cited is clearer.  It recognizes that the same words can be taken in more than one way and specifies which way of taking them is wrong.

I am not the only person who thinks the 39 Articles were crafted to permit some ambiguity in interpretation nor is nuance merely a trick employed by Catholics.  It seems to me that Via Media was constructed on ambiguity and language permitting more than one interpretation.  I’m glad to see that you know this one to have only one crystal clear meaning.  Suit yourself.

February 28, 11:06 pm | [comment link]
32. Jimmy DuPre wrote:

How can we on the one hand say that disagreements on doctrine were not really disagreements, that everything is ambiguous and subject to interpretation, and on the other proclaim we have Good News to announce to the world? There are many issues where disagreements are acceptable amoung Chrsitians; nature of the sacrements, the Trinity, infant baptism, the correct ecclesiology, etc. The Gospel is where there is unity. Jesus did not pray for unity in vain. It does not matter how many times the Church fragments, God will call and enable prophets to proclaim his word. And the institutional church will persecute them.

March 1, 10:14 am | [comment link]
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