I listen to “Called to Communion,” a Roman Catholic talk radio show, for about one hour every work day in order to keep abreast of what’s going on within the RCC. The advertised aim of the show is to convert Protestants to Catholicism. There’s no ecumenism going on during this show, folks. Host, David Anders, is pretty blunt in his attacks on the Gospel of grace.
Last week, I was listening to the 11/1/18 podcast of the show, and the discussion focused on Reformer, Martin Luther. As in MANY previous episodes, Anders described “heretic” Luther as an overly-scrupulous neurotic, who suffered from an obsessive-compulsive disorder. On what does Anders base that ad hominem smear?
Prior to breaking from Catholicism, Luther was an Augustinian monk. Luther took his legalistic religion very seriously, unlike most Catholics, and constantly compared how his thoughts, words, deeds, and acts of deliberate omission measured up to God’s Ten Commandments. Catholics are obligated to confess their sins to a priest at least once per year or incur a mortal sin (only 12% of contemporary Catholics obey this rule). Luther confessed his sins to a priest EVERY DAY and would often spend hours in the confessional recounting his offenses against God’s Law.
Catholics like Anders brand Luther as hyper-scrupulous and neurotic, but the Holy Spirit was revealing to the monk his sinful depravity and his absolute inability to obey his way into Heaven. Luther would eventually trust in the promises of God’s Word and become spiritually reborn by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Luther was finally able to rest in God’s forgiveness and salvation through Christ.
Anders naturally pushes his church’s false gospel, which states that people can successfully obey their way into Heaven with the help of sacramental grace, but in order to keep their sanity while on this legalistic treadmill, Catholics seriously downplay the extent of their sin. Most Catholics will tell you with a great degree of sincerity that they do a pretty good job of obeying the Ten Commandments.
It’s interesting, though, that there have been many Catholics over the ages who, like Luther, also had a sharp awareness of their sinfulness. However, rather than repenting of their sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone, these Catholics practiced various methods of severe asceticism including painful self-mortification as part of their penance or as attempts to master the flesh. Mother Teresa wore a pain-inducing “cilice” (see here) daily. Catherine of Siena starved herself to death by restricting her food intake to only a daily communion wafer. Pope John Paul II flagellated himself daily and also, like Luther, went to confession every day. I wrote all of the above to ask this: Isn’t it contradictory for Anders and other Catholic apologists to slander monk Luther as being overly-scrupulous, neurotic, and an obsessive-compulsive when many Catholic saints, who these apologists extol with great gusto, were slaves of their legalistic religion to an even greater degree than monk Luther? Why was Luther’s daily confession a sign of neurosis, but John Paul II’s daily confession a sign of sanctity?