Cavaliers vs Roundheads...Again

civil2A long time correspondent sent me a note with a link to website where the writer listed biblical references to prove that Pope John-Paul II was burning in Hell. My friend, a Baptist, said she was trouble and confused. She asked what I thought. This is what I replied:
Dear_______,

I think your confusion about the Pope can be boiled down to two problem areas.

The first is with the Catholic belief that God picks any one man to be His highest representative on earth.  Non-Catholics will say all believers are part of a holy nation and royal priesthood.  You and I, Dick and Jane may belong to different denominations that emphasize some aspects of the Gospel over others, but no one leader of our myriad groups is better than the others.  (I'm being positive.  There are plenty of charlatans, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant.)  An offshoot is that Catholics who would elevate a man to be the first among equals, a prime minister, if you will, of all of Christendom, must be ignorant, deceived or the willing servants of Satan.  Non-Catholic theologians can make compelling arguments to support degrees of this  point of view, but the more brutish and less educated often go farther and take to calling the Pope the whore of Rome or the anti-Christ, or condemning this one or that one to Hell.   But there  really can't be too much confusion dealing with the latter, can there?   Even if you sit in the same pew with them every Sunday, you are very careful not to disagree about anything, from end times eschatology to whether the worship leader really knows Christ, because they will eventually condemn you.  So there you are, a good Protestant girl, burning alongside John-Paul II.   Best to stick with the serious critics and let them confuse you.

Scott Hahn is a serious critic.  His arguments regarding the papacy, papal infallibility and, yes, even reprobates fornicating on the Throne of Peter deserve consideration.   The reason is that Catholics and non-Catholics have been separated by the grace of God from this world to first receive- and then reach for- objective truth.  We are not humanists, secularists or relativists.  (Of course we're tainted by all of that, but I'm still trying to be positive.)  We are called to hold our vast common ground against all comers, against the know-nothing self-taught love-offering mongers, as well as againt the liberal seminarians who would make the life of Christ an allegory for some deeper meaning discovered only in the last fifteen years.

I don’t know Greek, and I don't know Latin, and I for sure don't know Aramaic, the language that our Lord actually spoke.   At least I know some English.  That's why Protestants like C.S. Lewis, J.B. Phillips and Derek Prince, and Catholics like Scott Hahn  and Father Richard Neuhaus sound real. That's why some priest giving his sincere opinion that the "miracle" of the loaves and fishes could not be due to the improbability of supernatural multiplication but rather to a sudden willingness of everyone gathered to share what they heretofore had been hoarding sounds like his subjective head is wedge up his nether throat.   Ditto for the preacher who has two years of Bible school, can drop a foreign phrase or two and spin a whole misguided tale around it. 

A couple of years back you pushed me into a defense of Mary as a perpetual virgin. I replied in a long letter, in which, if I remember, cited
The Bethany Parallel Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. Herein were the commentaries of Mathew Henry, Jameson/Fausset/Brown and Adam Clark, with references from Martin Luther to Charles Spurgeon, none of them a friend of Catholicism, yet serious and real. I found justification of what are called "brothers" of Jesus in English possibly being cousins, and of "firstborn" not necessarily implying that Our Lord was followed by siblings. From internet sources I learned that Luther believed that Mary was ever virgin; Calvin wasn't sure; and John Wesley wrote that she was forever unspotted. Objectively, I could not know one way or another, only what the Catechism maintains and to some extent why Catholic doctrine insists on it. Because of you, I now I had the word of my Protest bettors to reinforce what to then had been a revelation that hit me out of the blue.

Similarly, my Catholic bettor Scott Hahn doesn't demand that I buy his conclusions, but I do I trust that he has marked the road how he got there well and truly. This link--
http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/hahn.asp--goes to a transcription of a talk he gave on the Papacy. His Protestant citations are numerous and surprising; his biblical reasoning, dense. Walk slowly; enjoy the view.

The other main obstacle to accepting the possibility that God might give more weight to the Bishop of Rome over other men in very straightforward. None of us likes to be told what to do or what to think. Papal decrees can't be forced on any of us. Because we are a rebellious and stiff-necked people, we think it is our prerogative to pick and choose what we will accept of anyone, from Benedict XVI to Billy Graham. None of our leaders is flawless (and most of the good ones know it, including John-Paul II who submitted weekly to a confessor). The problem, though, is more that we make our thoughts God's and presume that our ways are His. Hence whole denominations have sanctioned same sex marriage, given a nod and a wink to adultery and divorce, lamented abortion but said it's OK. The Roman Catholic Church has officially held the line, but there are cynical bishops and embittered nuns who are in states of active rebellion. The Church's main exorcist says there are even demons in the Vatican. We would all do well to recognize they're running rather freely in non-Catholic circles, as well.

Best to_______.

Love,
Jeff