Contrary to some of the comments I’ve received since beginning this blog, I certainly don’t hate Catholics. Many of my close family members and friends are Roman Catholics. However, as one who came out of Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior, I object to all religious systems, whether they call themselves “Christian” or not, which teach that salvation must be merited. Catholicism is especially wily because it refers to Jesus as Lord and Savior and gives lip service to “salvation by grace through faith” but every Catholic is required to “cooperate with grace” and ultimately merit their salvation.
I found the article below from a British newspaper in anticipation of pope Francis’s visit to the USA to be quite interesting, more for what it doesn’t say than for what it says. There’s absolutely no doubt that a degree of hatred and prejudice toward Catholics existed in America. But let’s dig a little deeper. Did this anti-Catholic prejudice appear out of thin air as this article implies or was the hatred a reaction to other historical forces?
The history of Catholicism in the Middle Ages and beyond was marked by intolerance, often extremely brutal, toward “schismatics” and “heretics.” Early Americans were well aware of the church’s harassment and persecution of non-Catholic minorities in alliance with civil governments in those countries where Catholics held the majority. Crusades? Inquisition? Catholic hegemony often meant oppression for Protestants in Europe and South America well into the mid-twentieth-century (see Italy, Portugal, Spain, Croatia, interwar Poland, and the Latin American nations controlled by the clerical falangists).
The Catholic hierarchy wasn’t shy about its alleged right to forcefully subdue non-Catholics. Pope Leo XIII went on record defending the Catholic church’s right to suppress Protestants in alliance with civil governments: “Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the state to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness—–namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges. Since, then, the profession of religion is necessary in the state, that religion must be professed which alone is true, and which can be recognized without difficulty, especially in Catholic states, because the marks of truth are, as it were, engraven upon it” (Encyclical Libertas, 1888).
Yes, Catholics also have a “dark and not-very-distant history” of hatred and to a much greater degree. By the way, the Tridentine anathematizations of the Reformers and everyone else who believes in salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone have never been officially rescinded.
There obviously is no danger of a “papist coup” in Washington D.C any time soon. Pope Francis can’t even get the majority of his members to go to mass on Sunday morning. The real danger to Evangelicalism began with the culture battles of the 80s and 90s when Evangelicals began embracing Catholics as co-belligerents in the fight for “morality” in America, which transitioned into compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and embracing works-righteousness Catholics as fellow Christians (see Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, Chuck Colson, James Dobson, etc.).
Up until recently, Evangelical Protestants were keenly aware that the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit was at odds with the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. But the ecumenical push by some Evangelicals to dispense with doctrine and embrace Catholics as “brothers and sisters in Christ” because “they love Jesus, too!” (see Rick Warren) casts those who would defend the Gospel of grace as “haters” and the “fringe.”
Catholics impossibly strive to live a sinless life so that at the time of their death they are in a “state of grace” with no “mortal” sin staining their souls. In contrast, Evangelicals believe no one can possibly live a sinless life and that all must accept Jesus Christ as their Savior and His imputed righteousness to be saved. Why are so many Evangelicals now overlooking the difference? Is it charitable to not say a word to Catholics as they continue to strive to merit their salvation?
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” – Romans 3:20.
“America’s dark and not-very-distant history of hating Catholics”
by Rory Carroll
September 12, 2015