Benedict XVI with Lutherans in Erfurt: “It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith.”

During his State Visit to Germany, the Holy Father gave this address at Erfurt during an ecumenical gathering at the Lutheran church.  Erfurt is, of course, where Martin Luther’s Augustinian convent was.

A highlight:

Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.

My emphases and comments.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I begin to speak, I would like first of all to thank you for this opportunity to come together with you. I am particularly grateful to Pastor Schneider for greeting me and welcoming me into your midst with his kind words. At the same time I want to express my thanks for the particularly gracious gesture that our meeting can be held in this historic location. [Graciousness is important in all ecumenical matters.  Graciousness does not mean that we have to water down our doctrine.]

As the Bishop of Rome, it is deeply moving for me to be meeting representatives of Council of the Lutheran Church of Germany here in the ancient Augustinian convent in Erfurt. This is where Luther studied theology. This is where he was ordained a priest in 1507. Against his father’s wishes, he did not continue the study of Law, but instead he studied theology and set off on the path towards priesthood in the Order of Saint Augustine. On this path, he was not simply concerned with this or that. What constantly exercised him was the question of God, the deep passion and driving force of his whole life’s journey. “How do I receive the grace of God?”: this question struck him in the heart and lay at the foundation of all his theological searching and inner struggle. For him theology was no mere academic pursuit, but the struggle for oneself, which in turn was a struggle for and with God.

“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. [NB:] For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching?  [Indeed!]

Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. [NB:] But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us?  [These are not small things.  They are huge.  And they result in a systemic way because of the failures, the sins of omission and commission, of individuals.]

I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too. In my view, this is the first summons we should attend to in our encounter with Martin Luther. [Keep in mind that Luther isn’t the only person who ever asked questions like this.  So, this is not a huge concession on the part of the Roman Pontiff.  But this is a good opportunity to pose the questions again to a new audience.]

Another important point: God, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, is no mere philosophical hypothesis regarding the origins of the universe. This God has a face, and he has spoken to us. He became one of us in the man Jesus Christ – who is both true God and true man. Luther’s thinking, his whole spirituality, was thoroughly Christocentric: “What promotes Christ’s cause” was for Luther the decisive hermeneutical criterion for the exegesis of sacred Scripture. This presupposes, however, that Christ is at the heart of our spirituality and that love for him, living in communion with him, is what guides our life.

Now perhaps you will say: all well and good, but what has this to do with our ecumenical situation? Could this just be an attempt to talk our way past the urgent problems that are still waiting for practical progress, for concrete results? [Nice and direct.  Consider for a moment whether Pope John Paul II would have said this, thought this way.  I think not.  Pope Benedict is the right person to pose this question to this group now.  And he can do so in his native tongue.  Of coure, Benedict XVI is also the Pope of Christian Unity.]

I would respond by saying that the first and most important thing for ecumenism is that we keep in view just how much we have in common, not losing sight of it amid the pressure towards secularization – everything that makes us Christian in the first place and continues to be our gift and our task. [This is something that the Orthodox know too: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  These are not the days of Mortalium animos, though what Pius XI wrote was not wrong.  We do have to be careful not to compromise our doctrine.  But these are the days of near total collapse of the Christian ethos in Europe, in the West.] It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds. The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.

The risk of losing this, sadly, is not unreal. I would like to make two points here. [1] The geography of Christianity has changed dramatically in recent times, and is in the process of changing further. Faced with a new form of Christianity, which is spreading with overpowering missionary dynamism, sometimes in frightening ways, the mainstream Christian denominations often seem at a loss. This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability. This worldwide phenomenon poses a question to us all: what is this new form of Christianity saying to us, for better and for worse? In any event, it raises afresh the question about what has enduring validity and what can or must be changed – the question of our fundamental faith choice.  [He is surely talking about the missionary activity of the zillion evangelical or fundamentalist splinter groups. However, rather than just say that they must be resisted, he says that maybe the phenomenon requires an examination of conscience on our part and a review of our own Evangelization.  We need a New Evangelization.  I also think we need a Marshall Plan, grounded in renewal of our most perfect form of communication with the world, liturgical worship.  Also, keep in mind how Papa Ratzinger has always been able to find a good kernel buried even in dangers theological errors. For example, he started off in one of his books on liturgy using a point of, of all things, Liberation Theology.  Of course Ratzinger understood liberation theology better than liberation theologians.  But consider Christ as the one who liberates the human person from sins and, through revealing man more fully to himself, freeing him from error about who man is.  Christ is truly Liberator.  Use that as a starting point for what Christ, the true Actor, does for us in our liturgical worship.  So, we can find even in errant groups some points for our own edification.  But I digress.]

The second challenge to worldwide Christianity of which I wish to speak is more profound and in our country [Germany] more controversial: [2] the secularized context of the world in which we Christians today have to live and bear witness to our faith. God is increasingly being driven out of our society, and the history of revelation that Scripture recounts to us seems locked into an ever more remote past. [QUAERITUR:] Are we to yield to the pressure of secularization, and become modern by watering down the faith? Naturally faith today has to be thought out afresh, and above all lived afresh, so that it is suited to the present day. Yet it is not by watering the faith down, but by living it today in its fullness that we achieve this[In my rantings about a “Marshall Plan” I make the distinction about ad intra and ad extra.  We have to know who we are and live who we are in order to have anything to say to the whole world.  If we don’t have a clear identity, why should the world listen to us?  At the same time, if we cave in to the world, the world (under its Prince) will crush us out of the public square.]

This is a key ecumenical task. [We have a common task.] Moreover, we should help one another to develop a deeper and more lively faith. It is not strategy that saves us and saves Christianity, but faith – thought out and lived afresh; through such faith, Christ enters this world of ours, and with him, the living God. As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted the first great ecumenical opening, [Common persecution.] so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord. [An interesting parallel, no?  Those who attack the Church from a secularist position are doing what the Nazis did.  That’s it, isn’t it?]

Erfurt, September 23, 2011

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. samgr says:

    Here’s what Der Spiegel’s English-language website has to say about the visit of His Holiness (emphasis added):
    It has been billed as Pope Benedict XVI’s most difficult trip abroad to
    date. But so far in Germany, the pope has not sought to shy away from
    controversy. His bluntness has surprised many — and could transform the
    visit into a rousing success.”,1518,788054,00.html#ref=nlint

  2. Ezra says:

    It was the error of the Reformation period that for the most part we could only see what divided us and we failed to grasp existentially what we have in common in terms of the great deposit of sacred Scripture and the early Christian creeds.

    Was this just an error of the Reformation period? I had the impression that heresy and schism were considered great evils before the Reformation period too. Indeed, even in the hostile climate of the unconverted Roman Empire, the Church’s attitude to heresy and heretics was pretty… tough.

    I say this not because I wish to attack Pope Benedict, but because I do think that contemporary ecumenism constitutes a greater revolution than a mere overcoming of Reformation hostilities.

    “A man cannot have salvation, except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can have everything except salvation. He can have honour, he can have Sacraments, he can sing “Alleluia”, he can answer “Amen”, he can possess the Gospel, he can have and preach faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; but never except in the Catholic Church will he be able to find salvation.” – St Augustine

  3. chcrix says:

    “This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.”

    I recall an anecdote told by H.L. Mencken: “A Frenchman informs his American friend that he is leaving the church of his fathers. The American asks what variety of protestantism he intends to patronize in the future. The Frenchman replies ‘My friend, I may have lost my faith, but I have not lost my reason.’ ”

    I think that the wild-eyed evangelicals are not merely mistaken, but more likely to come under the thumb of modern governments. It takes an institution with a deep memory to resist the demands of the state over the long haul.

  4. I must say that the service itself was one the most plain that I have ever witnessed. I was not impressed with the length of the sermon of the lady minister. But I must say that at least the altar looked like an altar. I admire the patience of the Pope.

  5. Jason Keener says:

    Our Holy Father said,

    “The great ecumenical step forward of recent decades is that we have become aware of all this common ground and that we acknowledge it as we pray and sing together, as we make our joint commitment to the Christian ethos in our dealings with the world, as we bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ in this world as our undying foundation.”

    I think that Catholics and Lutherans should acknowledge what they have in common, but I don’t think Catholics can be justified in joining the Lutherans in prayer and singing. How can we pray and sing together when we know that the Lutherans who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ openly reject the teachings and governing authority of the Catholic Church that Jesus Christ Himself established? How can Lutherans “bear common witness to the God of Jesus Christ” when Lutherans openly reject something as fundamental as the Church Jesus Christ established for man’s salvation? Yes, we should all encourage the gazillion splintered Protestant sects to embrace the true form of Christianity in the Catholic Church, but Lutherans have the same urgent need for this conversion.

    Finally, yes, we must work together with the Lutherans to combat societal evils like poverty and abortion but never in a way that would seem to legitimize Lutherans in their behavior as if a true Christianity can be practiced without the governance of the Catholic Church, without the seven sacraments, without all of the Church’s doctrines, etc. I wish the Pope would appeal to the Lutherans for their help in combatting the evils of society but only use natural law arguments to do so. Using natural law arguments would give no support or tacit approval to the Lutherans in a practice of Christianity that is separated from the Catholic Church but would still serve as a common ground for combatting moral evils.

  6. thereseb says:

    ………..”the sins of omission and commission”

    The whole tenor of this passage seems to me as a humble papist, to assert that we are not saved by faith alone……

  7. Joe Magarac says:

    1. This is not the first time that Benedict XVI has suggested that Christians should focus on what unites us, not just on what divides us. Recall this quote from his letter to the world’s bishops about Summorum Pontificum: “Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity.”

    2. H.L. Mencken never told the anecdote that chcrix describes above. That story comes from “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce:

    “- Then, said Cranly, you do not intend to become a protestant?
    – I said that I had lost the faith, Stephen answered, but not that I had lost self-respect. What kind of liberation would that be to forsake an absurdity which is logical and coherent and to embrace one which is illogical and incoherent?”

  8. scotus says:

    Talking about what Catholics and Lutherans have in common takes me back to the late 1960s when I worked in a Lutheran establishment for a short time. (The Anstalt Bethel in Bielefeld for any one who knows of it.) I was very full of ecumenism at the time and noticed that the Institute was largely staffed by deacons and deaconesses. The deaconesses, in particular, had their own uniform (habit?) I made the comment that the deacons and deaconesses were a bit like monks and nuns but I don’t think it went down too well.

    With regard to Erfurt one thing which surprised me when I visited it was that the biggest church building in the city is the Catholic Cathedral. It dominates the skyline of the old town. Nor is it a modern building; it is pre-Reformation. Seems odd in a city which went over to the Protestants. I did once dioscover the explanation but can’t now remember what it was.

  9. Schiavona says:

    People tend to forget how remarkable it really is that.. a bunch of Lutherans in Erfurt are allowing the Pope to preach to them. Fully aware both of conflicts and of Catholic doctrine, he establishes common ground, offers a challenge, and then gives a spiritual answer, allowing the Holy Spirit to do the rest and bring them to the banks of Tiber. I think that this kind of dialogue, when genuine, is much harder than open conflict.

  10. Cephas218 says:

    Wowser! Great talk. Thanks for transmitting, P. Z.

    “This is a form of Christianity with little institutional depth, little rationality and even less dogmatic content, and with little stability.”

    It amazes me how our Holy Father can appeal to the rational Germans so viscerally and speak truth so deeply. This sentence is just one of many where he appeals to a common “other”.

  11. Andy Milam says:

    So, an honest question….please understand that….

    If the Lutherans are an ecclesial communion and not a Church, how can there be ecumenism? Wouldn’t it be better served to speak in terms of proper catechesis?

    Shouldn’t we view Religious tolerance in these terms:

    Catechesis = Catholics and Protestants
    Ecumenism = Orthodox
    Evangelization = non-Christians

    Unless there is a tinge of being politically correct (which I’m not saying is necessarily the case), wouldn’t catechizing those who are part of a heresy be the proper way of approaching Protestantism, whether it be Lutheranism, Methodism, or Anglicanism?

    I suppose my view may be outdated, but it seems that if we’re going to talk in terms of ecclesial communions (which assumes a deficient membership in the Church already); wouldn’t it make more sense to speak in terms of catechesis?

    Perhaps it is too harsh or perhaps I’m missing a piece. I don’t know…

  12. Tom Piatak says:

    An outstanding address by the Holy Father.

  13. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Fr. Z: “These are not the days of Mortalium animos.” How true are those words, for those of us who deal with Protestants and with secularists also. After dealing with the new crop of atheists and angry secularists, who rejoice at the collapse of the Christian ethos, one actually is relieved to run into and make friends with “heretics and schismatics” who actually have faith in Christ.

    The suggestions that ecumenism should be replaced with a new round of condemnations and pontifications has an air of complete unreality. It also shows a crass ignorance of the psychology of the modern mind, which requires that the heretics find us likeable before we can ever expect them to listen to the tenets of the true religion. I think it was St. Leo the Great who told the clergy that, even when preaching to orthodox Catholics, if your audience finds you to be a distasteful and unlikeable person, they will simply ignore you.

    Protestants, including Lutherans, already know that we consider ourselves to be the true Church of Christ. What they need to see is that we act like true Christians toward them, and that will help them to overcome their doubts about our doctrine. As someone pointed out, it is amazing that a group of Lutheran ministers even allows the Pope to go into their midst and preach to them. One hundred years ago, any Pontiff would be have been tarred and feathered.

  14. chcrix says:

    “2. H.L. Mencken never told the anecdote that chcrix describes above. That story comes from “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce:”

    Joe: I do not doubt that the story was told by Joyce. Nevertheless Mencken did tell the story as well. Whether it was in “Treatise on the Gods”, “On Democracy” or buried in one of the Prejudices volumes I can’t say at the moment. It’s entirely possible he lifted it from Joyce. Or perhaps both of them ran into a variant in their misspent youth as they were contemporaries.

  15. Joe Magarac says:

    “[W]ouldn’t catechizing those who are part of a heresy be the proper way of approaching Protestantism, whether it be Lutheranism, Methodism, or Anglicanism?”

    Not if you want to succeed. Taking the position that your dialogue partner is a heretic or is in need of catechesis is likely to end the dialogue before it begins. Far better to do what BXVI did here and assume that your dialogue partner agrees with you on much and that you have an honest difference of opinion on something else.

    If you befriend a Protestant, then you can call him a heretic – I call my Protestant friends heretics all the time. But they know that I’m kidding, that I respect them, and that I want to provide them with ways of resolving questions that Protestantism can’t or doesn’t answer (e.g., if we ask friends to pray for us, why not ask the saints? if casual sex is wrong, why encourage contraception which makes it easier? etc.).

    It’s not political correctness to think that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. It’s common sense.

  16. Joe Magarac says:

    @chcrix – Your first post purported to quote from Mencken; you put a passage in quotation marks. If you didn’t have a quote, or if you thought that Mencken said something but weren’t sure when or where, then I don’t think you should have presented it as a direct quote.

  17. Imrahil says:

    Dear @scotus,
    Erfurt was within the secular dominion of the Archbishop of Mainz until 1802.

    Dear @Jason Keener,
    I totally disagree. What is the point in treating them as Non-Christians who confess to be Christians?

  18. Jason Keener says:

    Hi, Father Sotelo.

    I do not suggest that we antagonize the Lutherans, but I do not suggest that we give them credit for being Christians either. No one has yet answered this question: How can one be a true follower of Jesus Christ or a Christian and at the same time reject many essential aspects of Christ’s mission on earth such as the founding of the Catholic Church for the purpose of man’s salvation? Don’t true Christians willingly accept all of what Christ Himself has revealed?

    Also, I think a case can be made for the benefits of Catholics referring to Lutherans and other Protestants as “heretics.” Such strong language might provoke the Lutheran to examine his position and re-consider. On the other hand, Catholics today give Lutherans very few reasons to seriously examine their own Lutheran positions and renounce their errors because Catholics already refer to Lutherans as true Christians.

    Lastly, I think for Catholics to be True Christians, we have to stop watering down the truth and pretending that Lutherans are true Christians [? And and you will next say that people baptized in the Lutheran Church are not truly baptized?] even though they reject at least several essential teachings of Christ. One can at the same time be friendly and caring to Lutherans and speak the truth about their heretical positions. That would seem to be true “Caritas in Veritate” and is in keeping with the Church’s approach for centuries.

  19. Andy Milam says:

    @ Joe;

    “…But they know that I’m kidding, that I respect them, and that I want to provide them with ways of resolving questions that Protestantism can’t or doesn’t answer…”

    Are you kidding though? Or do you really think them to not to hold to a heretical view? Of course they themselves are not heretics, but the ecclesial communion to which they belong is. It is proper to speak of Lutheranism as being heretical. It may or may not be appropriate for one to refer to a Lutheran as one though…his level of culpability would need to be determined.

    Notice, that my view isn’t to approach an individual as a heretic, but rather to speak to one who belongs to a heretical ecclesial communion.

  20. albizzi says:

    You have understood that (false) ecumenism has limits.

  21. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Jason Keener,

    your “true Christian” approach is misleading. Of course a Christian who does not accept what Christ has revealed falls short of what is his obligation as a Christian. But nobody doubted this here, nor did the Holy Father! But you have not yet given a reason why we should not speak of degrees between “true Christianity” and being not a Christian. In fact, the very penal law of the Church does so in distinguishing apostasy from heresy.

    Counter-question: How can one be a true follower of Jesus Christ and be in a state of mortal sin?

    And yet we are bound to treat mortal sinners as Christians, if they are.

  22. levi1991 says:

    Fr if I may say so with all respect what exactly do you mean by ‘We are not in the days of Mortalium Animos?’ When that encyclical was issued the world was in the grips of the abomination of communism, one can hardly claim that the situation was any better then than it is now. Let us at least be clear, what the pontiff is suggesting directly contradicts Mortalium Animos, [I think not.] especially as the encyclical condemns the very arguments you and the pontiff make to support such actions namely that we must unite to combat secularism. We cannot therefore excuse the pontiffs actions and claim that Mortalium Animos was ‘applicable for its time but not now’ Pope Pius XI made it clear that he condemned all attempts at ecumenicism regardless of how far the pest of irreligion or communism had spread. One must either accept that Pope Pius XI and Mortalium Animos got it wrong or that Pope Benedict XVI and his actions are wrong, we cannot accept two explicitly contradictory points of view. Again I say this with all respect for you Father and for The Holy Father. [The fly in amber approach.]

  23. Re: “the new kind”, I think the Pope is talking about Pentecostalism and/or megachurches and/or emergent churches. But yeah, doesn’t really matter whether it’s one of those or another.

    Re: people more Catholic than the Pope, there’s a difference between the analytical, definition-based language you use in “Dominus Iesus”, and the language you use while being “all things to all men, so that by all means” you “save some.” St. Francis de Sales was not ashamed to point out that you catch more flies (Catholic, Protestant, or other) with honey than with vinegar.

    When Jesus Himself went out looking for lost sheep, He was generally sweet and winning, albeit with a little dash of vinegar. (Sort of like sweet and sour sauce.) It’s the righteous and self-righteous to whom Jesus spoke with acid, because they knew better and still did it. So yeah, if the Pope is going to talk smack to anybody, I’d expect him to pick somebody like me.

    Re: Reformation, the Pope is talking about how Christianity in the West turned against itself instead of banding together to make headway in evangelizing the world, and probably in the way that the Church hierarchy of that day allowed Luther to feel all persecuted and stomp off, thus touching off bloodbaths and huge wars all across Europe, and killing hundreds of thousands of Germans. Oh, and of course the power of the state increased at the expense of individuals and churches, as kings and princes claimed the right to dictate the religions of their subjects and the appointment of clergy.

  24. Oh, and of course the way secularization and the more godless, statist bits of the Enlightenment grew on the ashes of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.

  25. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Jason: You asked, “How can one be a true follower of Jesus Christ or a Christian and at the same time reject many essential aspects of Christ’s mission on earth such as the founding of the Catholic Church for the purpose of man’s salvation? Don’t true Christians willingly accept all of what Christ Himself has revealed?”

    Very good question. My answer would be that those who are ignorant, or do not understand the Catholic teaching of many “essential aspects” of Christ’s mission, or possess mental or emotional blocks (psychology is helpful to understand this), cannot be culpable of the sin of rejecting the truth. Therefore, they possess true faith in Christ by adhering to those aspects of truth which their tradition has from the Catholic Faith, without yet being in the fullness of “the” true Faith.

  26. Joe Magarac says:

    @Andy Milam:

    Yes, I am kidding when I call my Protestant friends heretics. As I understand the term, a heretic is a Catholic who dissents from Catholic dogma. Luther was a heretic. But my friends are evangelicals who are exactly what the Pope described them as being: energetic but lacking depth or substance. They’ve never claimed to be Catholics or to hold Catholic dogma, so they haven’t dissented from it in a way that would earn them the label “heretic.” I call them that as a teasing way of reminding them that their views are at odds with current and historical Catholic Christian belief.

    Maybe I am wrong in thinking that you have to start out a Catholic (and then fall away) to be a heretic. But if I am right in thinking that, then calling my buddies heretics is indeed kidding.

  27. benedetta says:

    With respect for the encyclical and in agreement with Fr. Sotelo I don’t see what is contrary to the encyclical in encouraging to live out faith in Christ in fulness. I also don’t read any encyclical or teaching as prohibiting, more and more, possibilities for reconciliation and communion with any individual or group who wishes to embrace it for what it is.

  28. What does the “New Evangelization” mean exactly… Was there something wrong with the Old Evangelization? The ways I see the “New Evangelization” played out practically is in horrible “praise and worship” music, tambourines, and watered down doctrine…. that and face book wall post evangelization. I’m sure there’s an authentic definition of the N.E. but how does it work exactly?… [Given your description, does that make any sense in light of the person who is promoting it? Pope Benedict? How would you answer your own question were it put to you by a fallen away Catholic?]

  29. Imrahil says:

    New Evangelization := Evangelization of peoples once yet evangelized but broken away. In English, you might also call it Reevangelization As a matter of fact, it is Neuevangelisierung, and not Neue Evangelisierung, in German. Coming to think of it, Reevangelization is the better English word.

    That being said, don’t despise praise and worship music and tambourines because they seem horrible to you. It is the right of the faithful to worship in a way as it, without expression of direct heresies or breaking of valid law, pleases him. [I’m not here talking about Holy Mass, about which other arguments might be of weight.]

    And what do you mean with “watered down doctrine”? I have not yet seen one it in any activity claiming to fall under the title of Reevangelization.

  30. Imrahil says:

    I add: because the very name of Reevangelization makes it necessary to confess as a ultra-conservative Catholic (you may also apply the friendly term of fundamentalist), [?] that is, one with the actual conviction that those of his fellowcountrymen who have turned away from the Faith should turn back to it.

  31. benedetta says:

    I agree with Fr. Z in this,

    “We have to know who we are and live who we are in order to have anything to say to the whole world.”

    Teaching children and adults that attending Mass is optional and fine if rarely attended, teaching children and adults that receiving communion having failed to love/committed mortal sin is a good thing, coddling abortion rights activists or other activists who use and exploit their fellows for material and sometimes horrible purposes and do not permit them to grow in the faith with free will, embellishing or adding special touches or flourishes given the whim of leaders, none of these have borne fruit for the persons allegedly served, first and foremost, it has divided and even sometimes explicitly seeks to divide and undermine unity, it paints a picture of the easy and comfortable life which has never been reality and thus discourages from perseverance and hope, it buys into all the messages that the culture of death already bombards people with and makes them cower and fearful about life and faith in general, and, when these are taught the supposed rational basis given usually resorts to the same old bigoted attack on the Church and the faithful so that people are walking around daily living in deep conflict in their own hearts, hating and wishing to love the Church and one’s fellows all at the same time. So on the whole the great commission is as fresh as always today and those who purport to lead and teach should reflect on exactly what ‘gospel’ and whose truths they are advocating and starting at that level, be reconciled with the Church and be converted.

    If the aim is to “Protestantize” the faithful (as some say) then the faithful have a right to know, which denomination, and which teachings in particular so that they may investigate and employing free will come to decide on their own what they wish to do. And if they say they wish to go with the Church’s path for salvation, then leaders really need to bless that and let that live, and if failed to in the past, examine consciences and be converted for the sake of unity for it is still and always will be the Church even if a great many are ill equipped to shoulder on in the life of faith or receive its benefits having been told or taught so many various things. To bully someone for making that choice as an adult with freedom of conscience is really very unChristian and it just discredits whatever alternative approach is being taught ultimately as people will observe and will be edified, for better or for worse on that score. If one is willing to use their position of leadership to harass other Christians then one shows themselves to be one who has not heard the message, at all and ultimately no good fruit can come from those words or those actions.

    Just as for alternative-teaching Catholics their mission (if one agrees it legitimate in the first place, reasonable minds will differ as to that) bullying and harassing Catholics who hear them out politely and then, having made up their minds with careful discernment, say to that loose collection of teachings, practices, thanks, but, no thanks, would be, and is, beyond the pale and falling into the now criminally prohibited, not just Church prohibited realm, we may all hope after unity and reconciliation among all Christians and still in that process, are entirely capable of refraining from assigning to those who we pray for and with for that unity, anything like blame, hostility, error. Unless someone says something openly hostile towards the Church, in which case we are immediately notified, essentially, that, one wishes, harm to us, and harm to others, and is showing themselves to have difficulty showing respect and may not invest any value in mutual respect, then, one should proceed on the basis of mutual respect for persons who believe in the Holy Trinity with us but for reasons of leadership are still unable to profess the faith with us at this time. Leaders of many churches are having discussions with the Holy See on the areas of historic disagreement, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and gratitude for one another. Given that this is happening we should not see others in terms of those historic disagreements (which our own leaders may have contributed to in different ways, if we are honest with ourselves, and which the believers who spoke out at the time may have had very good reasons, good intentions) as definitive of them individually and collectively but in terms of the presently expressed hope exchanged between leaders and from believer to believer that we may overcome those differences and still be united. I have been edified many times in my life by believers of different and no denomination, and even others who practice completely different faiths and show themselves to, be persons of good will who desire the same for all, who recognize the need for freedom of religion, who recognize that religious believers have good contributions to make to culture and society, who understand something of the transcendent, of God, of the dignity and nobility of human beings, who recognize that mutual respect and good will requires that one listen to the other, who comprehend the connectedness of humanity and believers over an inclusive timeframe not created by human beings in the first place, who listen to a call in their hearts that gives rise to treating one’s neighbor in the way they themselves would wish to be treated. At this moment in history other believers also recognize what is, has been happening, that some wish to prohibit belief in God altogether and utilize many different means toward this end, from legalized to illegal means, from governed to loosely organized to random occurrences. Trusting in God in the first place is indeed something that is a commonality. Perhaps we need not have much discussion together to appreciate this shared reality but sufficient is to just be in one another’s presence in gratitude to God, offering what comes in silence.

  32. Imrahil says:

    Dear @Fr. Z, I was being ironic.

  33. Jason Keener says:

    Father Sotelo,

    I agree with you that some Lutherans are probably invincibly ignorant, and for that reason, God will not judge them for holding fast to their heretical positions such as their rejection of the Papacy, rejection of Transubstantiation, and rejection of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, among other things.

    Having said that, I still don’t think we can call someone who rejects essential elements of Catholic Christian Faith a true Christian because OBJECTIVELY speaking being a Christian has always involved accepting the entire Deposit of Faith. In a like manner, I would never say that someone is a true Muslim if they didn’t believe in all of the essential aspects of Islam like the Koran or the teachings of the Prophet Muhammed. In short, one can call Lutherans “Christians,” but does it really make sense to do so? What kinds of true Christians reject so many important elements of what Christ has revealed? Let us call a spade a spade.

    By the way, I think two true Christian Catholics could disagree on some MINOR elment of the Faith such as the legitimacy of the apparitions of Mary at Fatima and still remain fully true Christian Catholics because the private revelations of Fatima are not essential elements of the Sacred Deposit of Faith.

    Finally, every person has a duty to dispel their ignorance about matters of religion, and one wonders about how many non-Catholic Christians today can truly be invincibly ignorant about the claims of the Catholic Church and the truth of the Church when information about Catholicism is so readily available. The continuing rejection of the Lutherans of the True Faith might be more a stubborn refusal to investigate and submit to the truth than a true case of invincible ignorance.

    We Catholics should also be blamed for the continuing rejection of Lutherans of the True Faith. When is the last time we tried to evangelize non-Catholics by sharing arguments from traditional Catholic apologetics in situations where this would be appropriate? Unfortunately, not too often. Apologetics, evangelization, and missionary work has often been replaced by a false and feel good ecumenism.

  34. Jason Keener says:

    Hi, Father Z.

    Admittedly, this topic of what makes one a “Christian” is a tricky topic. What adds to the confusion, I think, is that the Church has adjusted the definition somewhat over the last few decades where there seems to be a contradiction between how Pius XII defined membership in the Church and how the Second Vatcian Council defines it. This leads one to wonder how the definition of membership in the Church could have changed between 1943, when Pius XII issued his encylical, and the 1960’s when the Council took place.

    First, I believe that every person who is validly baptized with the proper form and matter, no matter where the baptism occurs, automatically becomes a validly baptized member of the One True Catholic Church and a true Christian. If there comes a point, however, when a baptized person in some way rejects the entirety of Christian doctrine (apostasy) or certain essential elements of doctrine (heresy), or the governing authority of the Church (schism), he/she ceases being in union with Christ and the Church, which are one. For example, a Lutheran child validly baptized remains a full and true Christian and in reality a member in good standing with the Catholic Church until that point in time when the “Lutheran” (who is really a baptized Catholic because there is only one baptism) begins to reject certain essential elements of the Faith, at which time that person becomes, unfortunately, a heretic who has fallen away from the Church and true Christianity.

    This line of thinking, I believe, is very much in line with Pope Pius XII’s “Mystici Corporis,” where it was taught that to be a member of the Body of Christ one must be baptized and must also accept all elements of the Faith and the governing authority of the Church:

    “22. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.”[17] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith.[18] And therefore if a man refuse to hear the Church let him be considered—so the Lord commands—as a heathen and a publican.[19] It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.”

    It is also problematic, I think, to insist that one can at the same time be a true Christian and reject many essential elements of Christ’s teaching after one’s baptism. If in order to be a true Christian, one does not have to accept the entire Deposit of Faith, how many teachings can a person reject and still be a true Christian? Is it 1, 5, 50 or a 100 teachings? It would seem that if one is to fulfill the baseline requirements of being a true Christian and being in possession of the gift of Christian faith, basic acceptance of the entirety of the Deposit of Faith in all of its essentials is a sine qua non.

    One might also argue that one can be a true Christian without believing in the Catholic Church; however, how can that be? If you reject either Christ or the Catholic Church, you automatically reject the other because they are one.

    Finally, I have no problem with other people who might have a different opinion; however, I also don’t think I’ve posted anything that contradicts what the Church seemed to be teaching for good reasons only a few decades ago.

    Thank you for giving us the opportunity to post our comments and have these important discussions together. God Bless!

  35. scotus says:

    Dear @Imrahil,

    Thanks for the information that Erfurt was within the secular dominion of the Archbishop of Mainz until 1802.
    Does this mean that Erfurt, ruled by a Catholic, was Catholic under the principle cuius regio, eius religio? This seems to be a bit odd given that the monastery church became a Protestant church. And how was it possible for a city in an area which went over to Protestantism (Thuringia) to continue to be ruled by a Catholic Archbishop? Or did the Archbishop rule it as a kind of secular government and not take any part in the religious life of the city. In which case, how come the Cathedral remained in Catholic hands? I’m still puzzled.

  36. Imrahil says:

    I’m not so sure myself, but here’s what I figure: It was by no means unusual that a city, which Erfurt was, had a lot of independence. Thus, Cologne which was not an Imperial City, but a city of the Archbishop of Cologne, had quite some independence and was hence called a “Free City” and given equal rank to Imperial Cities, though the Archbishop still held some power too.

    Now Erfurt wasn’t formally a Free City either, but still it was apparently able to decide for an in-parts-Reformation. This was even formally possible under the Augsburg Peace, but formality doesn’t matter so much here.

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