Of Protestantization, Flops and the Management of Expectations

Everyone should rush to read what Andrea Gagliarducci contributed in his latest Monday Vatican offering. HERE  Using as a springboard a new book in Italian on Luther by Angela Pellicciari, (not in English yet – Amazon USA HERE UK HERE – ITALY HERE) Andrea writes about Martin Luther, Protestantism, and the ongoing corrosion of the Catholic Church through Protestantization.

A sample:

The push for subjectivity was one of Martin Luther’s arguments in his anti-Roman preaching. Angela Pellicciari writes: “With the elimination of the function of the magisterium, the denial of the priestly order, the exaltation of individual freedom and the rejection of the importance of works to achieve salvation, everyone makes his own decisions. Everyone reads the Bible and interprets it his own way, trusting in the Holy Spirit’s assistance.”

In the end, the risk of the institutionalization of “case by case discernment” is to arrive at the “by Scripture only” (sola fide) notion that Martin Luther promoted. The priest who discerns on a case by case basis puts aside the function of the magisterium and founds his activity on his personal interpretation of the Scriptures. He wields enormous discretionary power, but it is much more a human power than one derived from God.

In his encyclical Spe Salvi, Benedict XVI asks: “How could the idea have developed that Jesus’ message is narrowly individualistic and aimed only at each person singly? How did we arrive at this interpretation of the “salvation of the soul” as a flight from responsibility for the whole, and how did we come to conceive the Christian project as a selfish search for salvation which rejects the idea of serving others?”

Angela Pellicciari responds: “It did so because Luther has misinterpreted as slavery to Rome the universal charism of Peter and his function in defense of the whole Church. As a consequence, “the body has been abandoned”, it seems “in favor of souls, that is, of the most interior part of each of us, which corresponds to our conscience. It is as if soul and body are set one against the other, and each of them goes on its own. As if obedience to conscience is a substitute to obedience to Peter.”

These are still the main themes of our times. Unchaining the faithful from the authority of the Church, Luther gave to princes, the secular power, a fundamental role. He even claimed the authority of the secular power against the Pope, if the Pope makes mistakes. But the Pope’s authority, his sovereignty, is justified by the need for independence from secular power. Only this way – St. Leo the Great explained – can the Church be credible and really free.

Over at Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter), Robert Mickens reacts with panic to Gagliarducci and Pelliciari and, to boot, reports of the ever smaller crowds turning up in Rome for Pope Francis’ events.  Mickens is befuddled that anyone in these days of post-Conciliar enlightenment should ever express concerns about the Protestantization of which Gagliarducci and Pellicciari wrote.

fishwrapWhat I found especially amusing was Mickens’ efforts to manage expectations about the success of the Year of Mercy, at least in terms of the falling number of pilgrims.  For example (my emphases and comments):

Pope Francis’ “revolution” is well underway and gaining momentum. Even if many millions of pilgrims do not come to Rome during the Holy Year, this phenomenon cannot be slowed down.

In fact, the pope does not want huge crowds of people to come to Rome for the jubilee. [So, if they come, they’ll claim it was a big success.  But if they don’t come, they’ll claim it was a big success.] He wants them to celebrate the yearlong event in their home dioceses, by being the first pope ever to encourage every diocesan cathedral around the world to have its own holy door. And not just the cathedrals, but also all significant shrines and even chapels in every prison. [If every door is a holy door, then no door is a Holy Door.  Let’s just desacralize the whole thing and call it something else.]

So any jubilee flop will be of small consequence, even if supplies a bit of schadenfreude to those who have been lukewarm and even opposed to the way this pontificate has unfolded.  [It seems to me that Catholics want every pontificate to be success.  That said, neither should we candy-coat everything.]

Mickens is eager to defend everything about Pope Francis, even that which might turn out to be a “flop” (his word).  He wasn’t so eager to take up the pen in defense of Pope Benedict’s efforts… or even his person.  You will recall the infamous Facebook exchange that resulted in Mickens sacking by the ultra-liberal Tablet.  HERE

Anyway… here’s another sample from Gagliarducci:

While everyone is pushing for a “more human Church”, a “more divine Church” is what is needed, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once observed. This is the issue. The subtle enemy that is Protestantization is always current, and it is perhaps the hidden enemy that the Church must fight above all others.

Take a few minutes to read his whole column at Monday Vatican.

Moderation queue is ON.

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  1. THREEHEARTS says:

    I would like to add to “managing expectations”. How many of us have been told that we are not to judge? Personally I have often wondered how the magicians square that use of the word with the spiritual works of mercy which the Pope recommends we resurrect or rather bring it out of hiding. Admonish sinners we are directed. No need to tell me Love the sinner hate the sin, that too has become some wacko adage and wrongly interpreted. Christ said at that time get the mote out of your eye. Do you think regular confession would support the act Christ demanded? I do. I do admonish the act of sentencing but not judging. Christ actually recommends we do not have God’s knowledge of the reasons for sin and the conditions that surrounds it. What we might see as sin might not be. Although as catholics we used to be taught what sin is. So do not say that will get you hell or heaven. We do not have the knowledge to give such a sentence. Nevertheless we used to be taught avoid bad companions. No more I’m afraid like the four last things and other important teachings this too has gone the way of the Dodo.

  2. The Masked Chicken says:

    Very nice article. The only thing I would modify is when Gagliarducci says that priests were left to implement Humanae Vitae in the confessional. There was nothing, really to implement. I think he means priests telling people in the confessional about the use of their conscience in using chemical contraceptives (the Pill), but this was not allowed in HV, which only permitted what we would call natural methods. The use of conscience for this was a Protestant (read: German) import into American Catholicism and then the rest of the world.

    Sadly, if I were Pope (Pope Chicken?), I would sequester Germany and the Northern European region for a hundred years – just keep them outside of contact with anyone but the Holy See. I could and should write a book on the infiltration of Protestant spirituality into the English-speaking world. It is very hard to convince someone who believes they are receiving locutions from the Holy Spirit that private interpretation is wrong.

    The Chicken

  3. Father P says:

    The whole “this is the first time that…” is beginning to tire me out because it is obviously not true. 1. In 2000 years it would be almost impossible for any modern Pope to do anything “for the first time”. 2. In the case that is specifically mentioned “Holy Doors” in every Cathedral and Shrine is continuing something that was begun during the Jubilee Year of 2000.

  4. Grateful to be Catholic says:

    We are being steadily Protestantized from the top. The shift from the external forum, based on facts, to the internal forum, apparently based on one’s own interpretations after a talk with God, is becoming the go-to strategy. The Kasperites want it for the divorced and civilly remarried. In Mitis Judex, Pope Francis opened the door for those seeking a declaration of nullity. The Final Report of the Ordinary Synod failed to forbid the Kasperite approach. And Pope Francis himself advised a Lutheran lady that she should, in effect, retire to the internal forum by “talking to God” and then “going forward,” presumably to receive Holy Communion with her Catholic husband.

  5. acardnal says:

    The Chicken wrote, “Sadly, if I were Pope (Pope Chicken?), I would sequester Germany and the Northern European region for a hundred years . . . “

    Q: Would you use chicken wire?

  6. iamlucky13 says:

    “They have been terrified that his intention is to use the Jubilee to unleash a tidal wave of God’s mercy and forgiveness, even to the point of allowing divorced and remarried members of the church to return to receiving the sacraments.”

    Who is Mr. Mickens referring to who is terrified of mercy and forgiveness? This is a strawman, and the reference to the divorced and remarried is a diversion, as Pope Francis has not presumed to lift the requirements for a plenary indulgence of being in the state of grace, making a good confession, and being free of attachment to sin. Saint Fabiola pray those who are divorced, remarried, and do not wish to detach themselves from sin.

    And who wants the Jubilee year to flop?

    I hope none of the other readers here. Regardless of any concerns about Pope Francis, he does have the authority to institute an extraordinary Jubilee, and we do have an added way to attain a plenary indulgence during this Jubilee year (keeping in mind and fulfilling the normal conditions), assisting us in attaining heaven and doing so with as little time in purgatory as possible. Regardless of the other agendas at play, Catholics faithfully seeking the graces available in the Jubilee year is good.

    It would simply be wrong to wish the opposite.

    Perhaps the problem here is thinking that the success or failure of the Jubilee year or Francis’ papacy in general should or even can be measured by the number of visitors to his audiences or pilgrims to the Holy Door of the basilicas of Rome.

    Let’s not let Mickens goad us into seeing the papacy as a popularity contest.

  7. robtbrown says:

    Angela Pellicciari responds: “It did so because Luther has misinterpreted as slavery to Rome the universal charism of Peter and his function in defense of the whole Church. As a consequence, “the body has been abandoned”, it seems “in favor of souls, that is, of the most interior part of each of us, which corresponds to our conscience. It is as if soul and body are set one against the other, and each of them goes on its own. As if obedience to conscience is a substitute to obedience to Peter.”

    IMHO, she has it backwards. The abandonment of the body is the implicit denial of the substantial union of body and soul. The consequence of which is the reduction of the life of faith to subjectivism–and not only the pope but also the priesthood becomes irrelevant.

  8. Matt R says:

    The scale is unprecedented. The Holy Door in each cathedral was supposed to never be done again (after the Great Jubilee), but once you let the toothpaste out of the tube…

    My archdiocese-Louisville-has TWENTY holy doors. It’s crazy, first because of the number. It’s ten times what dioceses other than Rome were expected to have (2, for larger dioceses as I understand it). Second, the placement is senseless. My parish is open 24/7 but we did not get the holy door (and since the two minor basilicas are a five minute drive and as the only shrine in these USA of extant Roman martyrs and with perpetual Eucharistic adoration, we would have qualified…). There are several country parishes with a door, but the West Side parishes that are majority African-American did not get one either. Far too many relatively wealthy parishes in residential neighborhoods (where parishioners usually have no trouble driving…and the ones that don’t probably don’t walk, i.e. the sick and elderly) received the holy doors. If you are going to ignore the qualification set out in Misericordiae Vultus (that additional doors be a shrine of some import) then at least be sensible and also reach to the peripheries…

    My opinion is that this makes the Jubilee indulgence harder, since one has to go to specific churches to gain the indulgence (as opposed to the parish church). It’s especially discouraging given there’s no impetus, given how ugly some churches are or banal the liturgy, and Confession does not seem to be expanding. St. Mary of the Seven Sorrows in Nashville sets the example: 1 hr before Mass Tuesday–Saturday, with 45 minutes and about 1 hr 15 m before both Sunday Masses.

  9. Traductora says:

    I am particularly worried about 2017, the 500th anniversary of the “founding” of Protestantism, because the Pope has already been making noises about “celebrating” it with the Protestants. I’m not sure he understands the issues or even believes there are any – since he has said that he really doesn’t understand or like theology.

    But it is not so much that he is objectively and verbally contradicting Catholic doctrine or practice as much as it is that everything is being emptied of meaning. Why the decline in pilgrims? Because Rome is being emptied of meaning and its significance as the center of Christendom. Who cares about St Peter’s , now that it has been used as a mere screen upon which to project photos of apes and even, in what is probably a sad forecast, Muslims praying?

    And who cares about Holy Doors now that there’s one on every corner? I have heard visitors joking about the Holy Door (with that silly, ugly image that is the logo of the Jubilee) , about installing one at home, and also about indulgences. It turns the whole concept into a parody. And speaking of Protestants, I have heard some say with an indulgent chuckle that this just proves that Protestants were right about indulgences.

    So I don’t think that the Pope is going to make any dramatic dogmatic statements (which can be clearly opposed), but will simply continue to drain the meaning out of Christianity and the Church. But then, as Gagliarducci points out, that’s the essence of Protestantism: the privatization, personal interpretation and relativization of the Faith, which eventually leads to its complete dissolution.

  10. DonL says:

    Isn’t there a tipping point where the much-heralded abundance of God’s mercy, allows us the privilege of not fretting too much about sin and such, negating any need to make any bothersome pilgrimage to Rome?

  11. mysticalrose says:


    “I am particularly worried about 2017, the 500th anniversary of the “founding” of Protestantism, because the Pope has already been making noises about “celebrating” it with the Protestants.”

    The year 2017 is still a long way off and our dear Pontiff is still quite an old man. So let us pray in hope rather than fear!

  12. TheDude05 says:

    O wish you would stop sending us to the Fishwrap, I get headaches in the com boxes.

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