Wednesday, April 20, 2016

For A Few Reasons: Why I'm Anglican and Not Roman Catholic

Ever since I started up my Barely Protestant page on Facebook, I've received the BIG question perhaps a dozen times. "Why aren't you (Roman) Catholic?" It's a fair question, given how "barely" I am a Protestant; at least from typical American Christianity's standpoint. From a Roman Catholic's perspective, I can certainly see why so many scratch their heads and wonder why someone would go "Catholic-lite", as I've heard so many say. So I'm going to give some reasons why I ultimately did not become Roman Catholic, and became Anglican instead.

I do want to not only point out but stress that I absolutely LOVE Roman Catholicism. I was raised in a home where we would pray for "Grandpa and Papa (the latter being my Cuban grandfather) to get saved", because they were Roman Catholic; my little brother even once prayed that during a lunch we had with Papa! The upbringing I had involved churches that rejected Roman Catholicism--and Lutheranism, and Methodism, and Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, and even to some extent Southern Baptists--as "non-Christians", or at best "carnal Christians"; however, Roman Catholicism was by far the LEAST Christian. Anyone Roman Catholic "worships Mary", "worships the Pope (who's of course the Anti-Christ)", and "secretly wants to kill all Protestants and Independent Fundamental Baptists (thanks, Chick Tracts)".

Yes, Jack Chick: I so fear for my life every time I go into a Roman Catholic church or talk to one of my Roman Catholic friends. Because of all of the slaughtering those Roman Catholics do, right after they finish helping out in the soup kitchens and protesting against capital punishment.

Needless to say, my study of theology, Church History, Scripture, etc. has led me to believe that Roman Catholics are genuinely my full brothers and sisters in Christ. Not only that, but they are part of the true, one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Nevertheless, I have somewhat against them. These are some of the reasons why:

Roman Catholicism's Doctrine of Papal Infallibility

First off, I want to emphasize that I do NOT think of Papal Infallibility as "everything the Pope says is infallible" or "Popes make no doctrinal errors" or anything like that. I understand that for an utterance of a Pope to be considered infallible, many criteria need to be reached. I also understand that even Roman Catholic apologists like Dr. Robert Sungenis understand that Popes can even be heretics. The understanding of Papal Infallibility is that the Pope can pronounce certain statements of Faith or Morals as infallible, not that every statement made is such.

The problem with Papal Infallibility is that it's not historical (you will see this problem pop up continually in this article). It just isn't. There are a few examples given by many Roman Catholics; Early Church Fathers, for instance, who speak very highly of the Bishop of Rome. However, speaking highly of a Pope is not evidence for Papal Infallibility.

The Eastern Churches reject it, Protestants reject it, and this was never decided ecumenically. Rome can poo-poo the Protestant rejection of Papal Infallibility (after all, we Protestants allegedly don't have valid Apostolic Succession--more on that another time), but can't ignore that the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches reject such a claim, and have never held to it. If Rome is serious about recommunion with the East (and Protestantism, for that matter), something must be done concerning Papal Infallibility.

Roman Catholicism's Stance Concerning the Eucharist (Transubstantiation) and Other, Differing Views

(Warning! This one is a bit technical and may be hard to understand. While I encourage you to read it, I also want to point out that a perhaps-over-simplified summary is at the end of this section in case you try to read this entire section and don't get it.)

First off, I want to point some things out: I hold to what is known as "Real Presence" concerning the Bread and Wine in the Eucharist. With "Real Presence", one maintains that the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ really and truly is present in the Eucharist.

Compare that to the concept of Transubstantiation, where the "accidents" of the bread and wine (what we detect with our senses) remain while the "substances" (what actually makes bread and wine, well, bread and wine--this is all Aristotelian metaphysics; it can be hard to understand) are replaced with the Body and Blood of Christ. That way, it is really and truly the Body and Blood of Christ and is no longer really and truly bread and wine.

How do these differ from one another? one might ask. Well, Transubstantiation is a specific understanding of Real Presence. It doesn't sound too different at all, so we shouldn't really have problems with it, right? Wrong.

The first problem with Transubstantiation is that it tries to explain a mystery. The word Sacrament, which is what the Eucharist is, means "mystery". We shouldn't be trying to explain how these mysteries work. That's not the point of the Sacraments. One of my favorite lines about Roman Catholicism and Transubstantiation is from a Roman Catholic priest: "There are three things you need to know about Roman Catholicism's view concerning the Eucharist: first, it's a mystery and can't be explained; second, we've explained it; third, we've anathematized anyone who believes differently from it (more on that last point in a bit)."

The second problem is that it simply isn't historical. While it is abundantly clear that the Church has always maintained the understanding of Real Presence concerning the Eucharist since the very beginning, that does not mean that they held to Transubstantiation. One specific point that distinguishes Transubstantiation from most other views that would fit under Real Presence is that the bread and wine's substances are no longer there, but replaced with the substance of the Body and Blood of Christ. That is, as far as I know, not taught anywhere in the Ante-Nicene Fathers (the Church Fathers who lived and wrote before the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325); it's certainly not the consensus opinion, based upon the historical records we have today.

The third problem is that this wasn't decided ecumenically (that problem pops up a few times as well, here). Roman Catholicism has had twenty-one councils that are considered "ecumenical" by them. The generally accepted number of actual ecumenical councils is seven, before the 1054 Schism between East and West. Transubstantiation was first briefly discussed in the Fourth Lateran Council (A.D. 1215), and then formally dogmatized in the Council of Trent (A.D. 1545-1563) with anathemas placed upon anyone who would hold to a different view (more on that). Both of these Councils are only considered ecumenical by Roman Catholics; the Eastern Churches were not a part of it.

(Sidenote: technically there have only been two TRULY ecumenical councils, since the third one involved the first major schism within the Church; this schism led to what is now known as the Assyrian Church of the East and its heretical Nestorianism. That discussion is, perhaps, for another time.)

The fourth and fifth problems are that Transubstantiation denies that the bread and wine are substantially still there, and that all who disagree with Transubstantiation are anathematized. As the Council of Trent notes in the thirteenth session, chapter VIII, Canon II:

"If anyone saith, that, in the sacred and holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, the substance of the bread and wine remains conjointly with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denieth that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood--the species (or "accidents") Only of the bread and wine remaining--which conversion indeed the Catholic Church most aptly calls Transubstantiation; let him be anathema."

In other words, if someone holds to it being both bread and wine and Body and Blood, that person is anathema according to the Council of Trent. That means Anglo-Catholics, and pretty much all of the Churches of the East, are anathematized by the Council of Trent.

There is significant precedent to refer to it as both. St. Paul refers to it as both (1 Corinthians 10:16), and a multitude of Early Church Fathers as well. Plus an argument can be made that the position of Transubstantiation can be considered a nod to monophysitism, the belief that Jesus' Divine Nature took over the Human Nature. Why? Because it has the Divine Body and Blood swallowing and taking over the mundane bread and wine, rather than co-existing with it. Do I think that Transubstantiation states as much? Certainly not intentionally; however, I think it is the logical conclusion.

Sorry; that was a rather long and really technical problem. Bottom line is that Transubstantiation is in multiple ways a doctrine that is theologically insufficient and wrong concerning the Eucharist. It was never decided upon ecumenically, and I can't be a Roman Catholic when the view is not only dogmatized, but also to the anathema of all who disagree.

Forced Celibacy for the Priesthood

I want to be married and have kids. I also want to be a priest. As Scripture says, it is a good thing to desire a wife. As well, there are many passages that make it obviously clear that not only priests (or "elders", as Scripture calls them) but Bishops are allowed to be married. St. Peter himself was married (here's another passage claiming so). The Eastern Churches allow married men to become priests (though, admittedly, not the Bishops), and the Anglican Communion allows all Holy Orders to be married. There is no good reason to force two of the three Holy Orders to refrain from marriage, as a whole. This was pushed in the 11th century in part for financial reasons by Pope Gregory VII (clergy were giving away Church property to their children). Prior to the Second Lateran Council in A.D. 1139, no Ecumenical (even by Rome's standards) Council dictated that clergy remain celibate. The First Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 only forbids women not related to the clergy from living with them, for obvious reasons. There were many married clergy in the first 1,000 years of Church History. This is an unnecessary restriction upon Holy Orders.

Beliefs Concerning the Blessed Virgin

I love the Blessed Virgin. I have prayed the Rosary, and have asked for her (as well as all of the Saints) to pray for me. I am fine with the concepts of her ever-virginity, and even her bodily assumption. I think that we as Protestant pay FAR too little attention to the Saints, including her.

However, I cannot hold to her Immaculate Conception (that is, that she herself was conceived without sin); I certainly cannot hold to it as a dogmatic belief to the anathema of one's soul.

As well, while I have no problem with the concept of her bodily assumption, I cannot hold to it as a dogma, of which one is anathema for rejecting.

As well, I am one of those Protestants who thinks that veneration of the Blessed Virgin has gone too far in many parts of the Roman Catholic Church. The same can be said by me concerning the Churches of the East.


These are some of the major reasons I am not, and do not ever plan to be, Roman Catholic. I find none of these problems in the Anglican Communion. Is the Anglican Communion perfect? Certainly not. John Shelby Spong, Katherine Jefferts Schori, Gene Robinson, and plenty of others have done so much damage to the Communion. However, the only one of those three that could not happen in Roman Catholicism is Schori on account of her being female, and a male version of her would be just as bad (I am against female Bishops and Priests, by the way); the problem of bad clergy is everywhere. Anglicanism isn't perfect, but its flaws (the allowance of female Bishops and Priests, for one) can be dealt with. I am not required to allow female Bishops or Priests in my diocese, as an Anglican clergyman. I am required to hold to the doctrines I reject, as a Roman Catholic clergyman.

Once again, I find Roman Catholicism to be a beautiful expression of the Faith, and consider Roman Catholics to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. Please sense my heart in this; this is not to attack, but rather to explain what problems I have and why I ultimately decided to remain, well, Barely Protestant.

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