Back when Bible Christians began making erroneous assumptions about Catholicism – Part 2

Born-Again Catholics and the Mass
By William C. Standridge
Independent Faith Mission, 1980, 32 pp.

5 Stars

Yesterday, we reviewed the 1975 booklet, “What’s Happening in the Roman Church,” by William Standridge, in which the missionary-to-Italy commented on the growing misbelief within evangelicalism that the Catholic church was moving closer to Biblical Christianity (see here). Today, we’ll take a look at Standridge’s 1980 follow-up booklet, “Born-Again Catholics and the Mass.”

This publication provides some of the puzzle pieces that were missing in the previous booklet. The author begins by once again noting the confusion among some evangelicals caused by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement. Adherents were allegedly manifesting the Pentecostal “gifts of the spirit,” including speaking in tongues (aka glossolalia), healings, prophecy, and being “slain in the spirit.” CCR Catholics were also adopting the moniker of “born-again Catholics” although they still followed their church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. For Catholics who were involved in the Renewal, being “born-again” meant experiencing the emotional euphoria involved with the Pentecostal practices rather than trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone and being reborn spiritually in Christ.

In the chapters that follow, Standridge compares the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church, reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), especially as they pertain to the Catholic mass, with Holy Scripture. The Bible clearly teaches there is no longer any need for a sacredotal priesthood or perpetual sacrifice for sin. The Roman church’s teaching that its sacraments infuse grace to the recipients, so that they are able to obey the Ten Commandments (impossible!), in order to possibly merit Heaven at the moment of their death is contrary to the Scriptures, which state that a person is only saved by repenting of (turning from) their sin and accepting (trusting in) Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone. A Catholic who is genuinely born-again in Jesus Christ will increasingly understand from Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit that the mass, with its mediatorial priests, perpetual sacrifice, faux Jesus wafer, and merit-based false gospel, is antithetical to the Gospel of grace and he/she will leave the Roman church.

Standridge also credits Vatican II’s conciliatory gestures toward Protestants as the cornerstone of the subsequent ecumenical and interfaith movements that were evident in 1980 and would grow exponentially afterwards, all under the auspices of the RCC. Because of Vatican II’s winsome approach to Protestants and the subsequent Catholic Charismatic Renewal, evangelicals were increasingly deceived into believing that the Roman church was moving closer to Biblical Christianity.

It’s my subjective observation that charismatic Catholics are now much-less apt to refer to themselves as “born-again Catholics” as they did when this booklet was written in 1980. They’ve generally fallen in line with their church’s official terminology, that a person (infant, child, or adult) is “born-again” when they are baptized.

I appreciated this second booklet by William Standridge, which filled in some of the gaps missing in his previous effort.

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Back when Bible Christians began making erroneous assumptions about Catholicism – Part 1

What’s Happening in the Roman Church?: A Report from Rome
By William C. Standridge
Independent Faith Mission, 1975*, 32 pp.

4 Stars

Several generations ago, evangelical Christians in America were under no illusions regarding Catholicism. The Catholic church unabashedly preached “another gospel” of salvation by sacramental grace and merit rather than the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. However, confusion was starting to grow among evangelicals back when this booklet was first published in 1975* and even before. Some Christians were erroneously claiming that the Roman Catholic church was reforming itself and moving towards Biblical Christianity. What were the bases of those claims? Were they accurate? William C. Standridge, an evangelical missionary to Italy, partially addresses those questions in this short and somewhat informative publication.

Standridge notes that throughout its long history, the Roman church has always been able to accommodate a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices underneath its broad tent as long as some basics are adhered to; most importantly, fidelity to the papacy and magisterium and belief in the efficacy of the sacraments. The author also notes that, as important to the church as its religious doctrines and practices are, its political influence and financial wealth are equally important. The church’s sprawling bureaucracy is focused as much on temporal concerns as it is on quasi-spiritual ones.

After building his case, Standridge gets to the crux of this booklet on page 20. In February 1967, some students at Catholic Duquesne University manifested the Pentecostal practice of speaking in tongues (aka glossolalia). The phenomenon spread quickly within Catholicism, resulting in many Pentecostals and charismatics wondering if the genuine Gospel had taken hold within the Roman church? The Catholic hierarchy accommodated the Catholic charismatics and their “gifts,” as it did with so many other enthusiasts dedicated to a particular “devotion,” because the Catholic charismatics still held to their church’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit. In fact, Catholic charismatics characteristically displayed a greater zeal for the mass and Mary worship than non-charismatics. But Protestant Pentecostals and charismatics were now in a pickle. Because Catholic charismatics manifested the requisite “gifts of the spirit,” pressure mounted to embrace them as Christians and the RCC as a Christian entity despite irreconcilable doctrinal differences. Standridge also notes that many younger, “rebel” priests were using evangelical terminology that was giving the false impression that they were teaching the genuine Gospel.

I give this booklet an “A” for effort, but only a “B” for substance. There definitely WAS change taking place within Catholicism in the 1960s and 70s that was prompting some evangelicals to draw unwarranted conclusions. Chief among the change agents was the conciliatory approach of the Second Vatican Council, but, yes, the growth of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) movement also had an influence.

Standridge would rightly address the powerful influence of Vatican II in his next booklet, “Born Again Catholics and the Mass” (1980), which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow.

*My edition of this booklet states that it was published in 1975, but some events from 1978 and 1979 are cited within, so this is certainly the subsequent 1980 edition.

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill Washington
By Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch
Flatiron Books, 2018, 416 pp.

5 Stars

I became very interested in the history of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) back when I was in fifth grade and for the next three or four years I read many of the books at our local library branch on the topic. I then moved on to other interests, but my family still remembers my infatuation with the Am Rev War. One of my sisters recently gave me this book as a birthday present and it turned out to be better than I expected.

The American Revolutionary War started in 1775, with engagements between the rebel colonists and British troops at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill (actually, Breeds Hill) outside of Boston. Virginian George Washington, one of the few members of the Continental Congress with military experience, was appointed Commander in Chief of the fledgling rebel army. By a stroke of military genius, Washington was able to drive the British from Boston without another shot being fired. Anticipating that the British would strike next at New York City, Washington assembled his rag-tag army there and dug in for the anticipated assault.

One of Washington’s problems was that many of the city’s residents were Loyalists and supported the crown. Most people are unaware that only one-third of the colonists supported the revolution. Another third remained loyal to the crown, and the remaining third claimed neutrality pending the outcome. The Loyalist governor of New York, William Tryon, took refuge from the continental forces in a ship anchored in New York harbor alongside an intimidating British man-o’-war and used his protected position to coordinate Loyalist opposition within the city. Aware of the strong anti-rebellion sentiment that surrounded him, Washington created a special detachment, the Life Guards, to ensure his personal safety. He also requested that the New York Provincial Congress create a special committee in order to streamline investigations into Loyalist subversion. That committee was headed by John Jay, the future first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

With the help of the pro-Loyalist mayor of New York and others, Governor Tryon was able to persuade/bribe five members of Washington’s elite personal guards to join the Loyalist cause and the general’s safety was thenceforth in certain jeopardy. However, Jay’s special committee was made aware of the treachery, most of the conspirators were arrested, and one Life Guard, Thomas Hickey, was publicly executed by hanging as an example to all those with Loyalist sentiments.

The British expeditionary force of 34,000 troops under the command of General William Howe sailed into New York Harbor on June 29, 1776. In a series of subsequent battles, Washington’s troops were outmanned, outgunned and outmaneuvered and would be forced to retreat to New Jersey. However, the British forces would eventually be worn down over the next five years and would suffer a decisive, back-breaking defeat at Yorktown in 1781.

What would have happened if Tryon and his co-conspirators had been successful in murdering Washington in 1776? Would we all be drinking tea today instead of coffee?

I didn’t think I would enjoy this book, but I definitely did despite myself. Meltzer broke it all down into 84 bite-size chapters of around 4-pages each and the writing was pleasantly non-academic. General readers would enjoy this book as well as Am Rev enthusiasts. Most war histories dwell on campaign and battle tactics, but this one provided a lot of personal information about Washington and many unconventional details of the invasion of New York. I was not aware of this conspiracy against Washington’s life or even of the existence of his personal Life Guard, so this book was interesting eye opener.

Bonus question: The Bible clearly instructs believers to submit to all governmental authorities. How then were believers who supported the rebellion and even participated in the fight against the British able to justify their actions? Every July 4th we celebrate that the American colonists were able to throw off the yoke of Britain, but the deadlier yoke is the bondage to sin that enslaves all souls until they repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone.

Dead Legionnaires buried in space?

It’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Burial in Space!”
Adventure Comics #379, April, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

4 Stars

Plot

At the conclusion of our previous issue, Adventure Comics #378 (see here), five Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – teeter on the brink of death, with their enigmatic executioner gleefully celebrating over them, when suddenly, time mysteriously stops. Let’s pick up the action:

We learn that a strange alien from a highly-advanced race from the planet, Seeris, has intervened and stopped time at that specific location to momentarily save the dying Legionnaires. He had been hoping that the heroes could assist him with some unspecified problem, but their current condition makes that impossible. As he monitors the situation, another contingent of seven Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters to find their five comrades and mistakenly assume them to be dead. The Seeron immediately transports to Legion headquarters and informs the heroes of all that transpired and proposes that he will cure their teammates if they will assist him with his problem.

The seven are quickly transported to Seeris where they are informed a warlike race of brutes has invaded the planet. The aggressors are of such low intelligence that they are almost impervious to the Seerons’ impressive mental powers. The Seerons are unable to resist the invaders because their complete emphasis on intellectual prowess over the centuries has rendered them physical weaklings and they have no defensive capabilities.

The seven Legionnaires – Chameleon Boy, Chemical King, Lightning Lad, Phantom Girl, Star Boy, Timber Wolf, and Ultra Boy – agree to the deal and set out to stop the vanguard of the advancing horde. A battle ensues and the brutes prove to be more powerful than expected, forcing the Legionnaires to retreat.

In the meantime, ANOTHER contingent of the Legionnaires arrives at the team’s headquarters, also mistaking the five that are in stasis for being dead, and proceed to give them a burial with honors in space. Back on Seeris, the seven Legion members regroup and formulate a plan to build an impregnable fortress to stop the enemy’s advance. The brutes easily breech the citadel’s walls, but Ultra Boy is able to buy some time with his impressive powers. Ultra Boy then sends out an appeal to the entire Seeron race to join in the conflict despite their physical limitations. The sheer number of Seerons proves too much for the invaders and they are defeated.

In gratitude, the Seerons transport the septet back to Earth and send a “thought force” to end the localized time stasis and cure the five heroes of their poisoning. However, upon arriving, the seven discover their five teammates had been mistakenly buried in space. Taking a cue from Brainiac 5 in the last issue, Ultra Boy suggests they use the mysterious “Miracle Machine” and the quintet subsequently reappear at Legion headquarters, none the worse for wear. Who was it that poisoned the five Legionnaires in the first place? Come to find out it was only a penny-ante crook by the name of Alek Korlo. Sheesh!

Commentary

This was an entertaining conclusion to the two-issue tale. Perhaps the most interesting element of the saga was back in the previous issue when writer, Jim Shooter, employed a “park bench philosopher” to counsel the dying Princess Projectra to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it,” and to “think of what’s been good in your life…don’t bother regretting a moment and squeeze your last hours dry, too!” The lost certainly don’t have much to offer when it comes to dealing with death.

Below is a detail from the cover of this issue that I wanted to emphasize. Note what appears to be a minister in ceremonial robes sending off the apparently-dead Boy of Steel while holding a book clearly labeled “Bible.” Great! God gets His digs in even in a comic book from DC’s Silver Age!

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Detail from the cover showing a robed minister holding a clearly-labeled Bible!

Only one more issue to review in our Legion Silver Age series. That’ll be coming up in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, DC is currently in the process of reintroducing the fabled Legion franchise, so I’ll be replacing my bi-weekly reviews of Silver Age Legion tales with monthly reviews of new LSH stories hot off of DC’s presses.

Throwback Thursday: ECT – Toward a Common Mission of Apostasy

Welcome to this week’s edition of “Throwback Thursday.” For today’s installment, we’re revisiting a post that was originally published back on September 19th, 2015 and has been slightly revised.

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Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission
Charles Colson, Richard John Neuhaus, editors
Word Publishing, 1995, 236 pages

1 Star

Before I begin discussing this book, I’d like to provide a little background. In the late 1970s, influential evangelical theologian, Francis Schaeffer, challenged American pastors and para-church leaders to enter the political arena in order to “reclaim America for Jesus!” Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and other popular figures picked up the gauntlet, determined to stem the tide of “secular humanism.” Evangelicals soon found themselves as co-belligerents with conservative Roman Catholics in culture and morality battles. Predictably, political alliances paved the way for religious accommodation and compromise. Irreconcilable doctrinal distinctives were overlooked and some evangelicals began to accept unabashed salvation-by-merit Catholics as “brothers in Christ.”

Bombastic Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority eventually flamed out, but another evangelical would soon carry the ecumenical torch. Chuck Colson had been Special Counsel to President Nixon, but his involvement in the Watergate scandal landed him in prison where he claimed to have had a born-again experience. His 1975 memoir, “Born Again,” was a national bestseller and launched Colson’s new career as a popular para-church leader. Taking his cue from C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity,” ecumenism became increasingly dear to Colson’s heart.*

In 1994, Colson and Catholic priest, Richard John Neuhaus, began “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT), an ecumenical project calling for evangelicals and Catholics to unite in the battle against secular humanism and to recognize each other as Christians. The organization’s 1994 declaration was signed by a number of influential evangelicals and Catholics. However, a number of other evangelical leaders voiced their strong opposition to the declaration, which embraced works-righteousness Catholicism as a Christian entity and called for an end to evangelizing Catholics.

This book, “Evangelicals & Catholics Together: Toward a Common Mission,” was published in 1995 to explain and defend the controversial ECT declaration. The evangelical contributors were Colson, Mark Noll, and J. I. Packer, and the Roman Catholic contributors were George Weigel and priests Avery Dulles and Neuhaus.

I really don’t care to expend too much energy reviewing the details of this book. In my view it’s a tragedy from the first page to the last. The three evangelicals who participated flagrantly accommodate error and compromise the truth. What is the Gospel? For genuine evangelicals faithful to God’s Word, the Gospel is salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In contrast, the Catholic gospel is salvation by sacramental grace and merit. The two views are irreconcilable and cannot be bridged. Colson and Noll heard Catholics concede that “salvation is by (sacramental) grace through faith” and eagerly jumped the gun, declaring, “Close enough,” yet also knowing full well that Catholics actually adhere to “cooperation with grace,” aka merit or works, as an essential component in their salvation system. Packer? He correctly writes that if any Catholics are saved, they are saved IN SPITE of their church’s standard theology, but he’s willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” – Romans 11:6

ECT went on to publish several additional declarations over the years (via Neuhaus’ conservative Catholic and ecumenical journal, “First Things”), although it faded from view after the deaths of Neuhaus in 2009 and Colson in 2012. But, regrettably, Colson did accomplish some of what he set out to do. He would be pleased that works-righteousness Catholicism has been embraced as a Christian entity by a large number of Gospel-compromising evangelical pastors and their followers.

*I’m speculating that Chuck Colson’s great desire to unite evangelicals and Catholics was at least partially motivated by his 48-year marriage to Patty Hughes Colson, a “devout” Roman Catholic. Colson regularly attended mass with his Catholic wife. To see more on Colson’s proclivity for Roman error, see here.

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Partners in ecumenism: Chuck Colson, left, and priest, Richard John Neuhaus

Throwback Thursday: The Dark Side of the Papacy

Welcome to this week’s “Throwback Thursday” installment! Today, we’re revisiting a post that was first published back on September 22nd, 2015 and has been slightly re-edited.

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Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy
By Peter De Rosa
Crown Publishing, 1988, 484 pages

3 Stars

The Roman Catholic church presents a fanciful, pollyannaish, idealized version of itself as the “one true church,” perpetually guided by the Holy Spirit through an infallible pope from an unbroken line of apostolic succession all the way back to Peter, the alleged first bishop of Rome. But history tells quite another story.

In “The Vicars of Christ: The Dark Side of the Papacy,” former Jesuit priest, Peter De Rosa, plays the “devil’s advocate” by examining the role of the papacy throughout history. Credulous Catholic readers will be shocked to learn that many popes were devoted only to furthering their political, financial, and ecclesiastical power by whatever means necessary. De Rosa refutes claims to divine guidance and papal infallibility by recalling the early church’s metamorphosis into an all-powerful, authoritarian institution which initiated the Crusades, the Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo (an unbreachable repudiation of infallibility), mandatory clerical celibacy, condemnation of civil democracies and freedom of religion, and the ban on contraceptives. Further historical embarrassments for the papacy and the RCC include:

  • Previous popes were sometimes denounced as heretics by their successors.
  • For centuries, popes reigned over a church that was ferociously anti-Semitic.
  • The Bible was placed on the Catholic church’s Index of Forbidden Books.
  • In their personal affairs, popes were often paragons of avarice and debauchery.

When this book was written, De Rosa was not privy to the pedophile priests and cover-up scandal tsunami that followed and that has rocked Catholicism to its foundations.

De Rosa is not an academic historian (no footnotes), but he credits a lengthy bibliography of scholarly sources. Intransigent Catholic traditionalists have slandered this book, but the muck is just too deep to overcome.* What is liberal Catholic De Rosa’s aim in exposing the papacy’s dark side? By demonstrating that the alleged vicars of Christ were not divinely guided, the author hopes Catholics will realize many of the current controversial dogmas (ban on contraceptives, clerical celibacy, male-only hierarchy, exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments, etc.) are concocted traditions without foundation that the hierarchy perpetuates to its own peril.

De Rosa pines for the liberality of pope John XXIII who “threw open the windows of the church” at Vatican II. But the church is reluctant to abandon its allegedly inspired doctrines for fear of losing credibility, for Rome has always boasted that it never changes. But didn’t Rome once teach that everyone not baptized a Catholic would go to hell? The current pope, Francis, now says even atheists will go to heaven if they lead “good” lives. Of course! If works are the means to salvation as Catholicism teaches then, taken to its logical conclusion, everyone who tries to lead a “good life” will merit heaven. So why should Catholics bother with their scrupulously legalistic religion if even atheists are “good to go”? Recent surveys reveal 75% of Catholics wonder the same thing and no longer bother to attend obligatory Sunday mass. But the house of cards came down decades ago for many Catholics when pope Paul VI forbade all forms of contraception while eagerly endorsing the natural family planning (aka rhythm) method. Most married Catholics legitimately asked, “What’s the difference?”

What is an evangelical Christian to make of the “Vicars of Christ”? Despite exposing the dark side of his church’s history, De Rosa is still an advocate of Rome’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit with priests as the ordained mediators between God and men. The Catholic church’s story is that of early-Christianity’s transformation into a legalistic, authoritarian institution whose cruelties, depravities, and corruption eventually overshadowed even pagan Rome.

The Reformers abandoned the legalism and ritualism of Catholicism and reclaimed the beliefs of the early church, which were based upon the scriptural Good News of salvation by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Unlike pope Francis who preaches Universal salvation for all who are “good,” the Reformers pointed to the Bible, which proclaims that there are none who are good or righteous and can earn their way to heaven (Romans 3:10). But the Good News! is God so loved the world that He gave His Son to die for our sins, and that whoever places their faith in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone will not perish, but will have eternal life (John 3:16).

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*Since the above post was written four years ago, several conservative Roman Catholics have written books which cite embarrassing and unflattering episodes in their church’s history. An absolutely amazing development! Their strategy? By showing that the church has survived corrupt and/or heretical prelates in the past, the authors contend that the church will also survive the heterodoxy of progressive pope Francis.

A priest leaves Roman Catholicism for Jesus Christ

The Soul of a Priest: My Conversion to the Pauline Succession
By L.H. Lehmann
Agora Publishing Company, 1933, 145 pp.

5 Stars

Many decades ago, Protestant literature included testimonies from ex-Catholic priests who had accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone and came out of the Roman Catholic church, but in our current era of ecumenical compromise, publishers like Zondervan, Baker, and Thomas Nelson are certainly not interested in that kind of story.

In this autobiography from several generations ago that went through numerous reprints, ex-priest, Leo Herbert Lehmann, recounts his experiences in seminary and as a Catholic priest in Rome, South Africa, and the United States and his eventual conversion to Jesus Christ and Biblical Christianity.

Lehmann was born in 1895 on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland. His parents both died when he was very young and he was subsequently raised by other family members. He endured a strict education at the hands of the cruel Irish Christian Brothers (the same religious order that taught at my high school) and resolved to become a priest, an extremely prestigious position in those days. He entered Catholic seminary at the age of seventeen at Mungret College near Limerick and then went on to Rome in 1918 to complete his training at the University de Propaganda Fideto to be a missionary priest. Lehmann excelled in his studies and was given some oversight responsibilities in connection with his fellow seminarians.

Lehmann was ordained a priest in 1921 and shortly thereafter was assigned to South Africa as a missionary priest. He recounts his challenging experiences in Rome and Capetown as a priest dealing with the superstitious laity and his corrupt fellow priests. Because of his ties to Mungret Seminary, he was called upon by that institution’s administrators to return to Rome and lend his support in their struggle with the Jesuit order, which sought to bring the seminary portion of Mungret College under its direct control. The squabble eventually reached up to the pope, Benedict XV, who ruled in favor of the seminary’s administrators, but the Jesuits were able to circumvent the papal decree through back door diplomacy and were ultimately able to wrest control of the seminary from the administrators. Lehmann’s eyes were opened for the first time to the corruptness of the Roman church through this internal power struggle. However, he also realized his role in the conflict made him a persona non grata in the eyes of the Jesuits. In 1928, he accepted an assignment to farflung, Gainesville, Florida, in the hopes that he might escape the Jesuits’ attention.

The 1928 U.S. presidential campaign of Catholic candidate, Al Smith, left a bitter taste in Lehmann’s mouth because he was often forced to equivocate publicly regarding the church’s view that American Catholic political office holders, just like Catholics in any country, were expected to place their allegiance to Rome over their obligation to any national constitution.* The suppression of that truth, along with the church’s sacramental system’s inability to actually change Catholics’ moral behavior, as well as the abject failure and hypocrisy of the celibacy rule, which was common knowledge among priests, led Lehmann into despair. His experience at the execution of a Catholic criminal was the final straw. Lehmann realized deep in his soul that he could not offer the condemned man any real spiritual solace.

Lehmann left the priesthood in 1929 and eventually repented of his sin and trusted in the Jesus Christ of the Bible as his Savior by faith alone. He subsequently became associated with Christ’s Mission in New York City, which began in 1883 as a Gospel outreach to Catholic priests and ex-priests. Lehmann was director of Christ’s Mission from 1948 until 1950.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit. Lehmann’s revelations about the corruption of the priesthood back in 1933 were amazingly prescient in light of the current priest abuse and cover-up scandal tsunami. I especially appreciated Lehmann’s remarks about several quasi-Protestants who famously converted to the Roman church, such as John Henry Newman and G.K. Chesterton. Today’s ecumenically-minded evangelicals are bewitched by Chesterton’s “verbal wizardry,” which Lehmann dismisses as tiresome “mental shuttlecock.”

A condensed version of “The Soul of a Priest” can be found here.

For a more recently published collection of testimonies from 50 priests who left Roman Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone, see my review of “Far From Rome, Near To God” here.

*Today’s reader will view Lehmann’s warnings of the dangers of Catholic political hegemony as quaintly paranoid, but, prior to Vatican II, the Vatican negotiated diplomatic treaties (aka concordats) with countries where it held a numerical majority that severely limited the freedoms of Protestants.

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Above: A photo of young Leo Herbert Lehmann as a Catholic priest.

 

Five Legionnaires must decide how to spend their final twelve hours

It’s time to once again climb aboard our fictional time machine and travel to the 30th-Century for another adventure from DC Comics’ Silver Age with the Legion of Super-Heroes in…

“Twelve Hours to Live!”
Adventure Comics #378, March, 1969
Writer and layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Win Mortimer, Inker: Jack Abel, Cover: Neal Adams

5 Stars

Plot

A small contingent of Legionnaires – Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy – are gathered at Legion Headquarters in Metropolis for a celebration; Brainiac 5’s birthday. As the quartet shares a toast to Brainac 5, he notices a strange powder coating the lining of his cup. He rushes to the lab and determines that he and his teammates have all been poisoned with a lethal substance for which there is no antidote and have only twelve hours to live (Superboy’s cup was specially treated with a Kryptonite-based poison, the only substance lethal to the Boy of Steel). Brainiac 5 suggests each person use their remaining time as they see fit and that they all reassemble in twelve hours to “face death together.”

Each Legionnaire chooses to spend their remaining hours differently. Braniac 5 returns back to the lab, racking his twelfth-level intellect for an antidote. Superboy returns to 20th century Smallville and his adoptive parents, the Kents, but grief overcomes him and he departs back to the 30th century to perform heroic good deeds as his final legacy. Duo Damsel spends her last hours with her parents, although without burdening them with her impending doom. Karate Kid opts to die battling crime and seeks out the most powerful team of villains in the Universe, the Fatal Five. With “nothing to lose,” the Kid is a formidable opponent, but the Five – Tharok, Mano, the Persuader, the Emerald Empress, and Validus – manage to escape. As for Princess Projectra, she sits alone on a park bench, overcome by grief, but a stranger intervenes who counsels her to “accept the inevitable without brooding about it.” Huh? Easy for him to say.

With time quickly running out, the Legionnaires glumly reassemble at their headquarters and Brainiac 5 sadly informs his teammates that he was unable to find an antidote in the interim. Superboy then writes the quintets’ collective legal will on a huge steel tablet using his “super-hard fingernail.” After Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra sign the will with a “laser stylus,” they, along with Superboy, weaken and collapse. As Brainiac 5 also begins to feel the poison’s effects, it occurs to him that the mysterious Miracle Machine (featured in Adventure Comics #367, see here) could possibly save the dying quintet. Braniac 5 struggles to make his way to the storage room, but can’t crack the impenetrable “inertron” casing that seals the device. As life slowly ebbs from the collapsed Legionnaires, a shadowy figure enters the headquarters. However, just as the mysterious villain celebrates his victory over the dying heroes, time suddenly stops and all remain motionless.

Is this the end for Brainiac 5, Duo Damsel, Karate Kid, Princess Projectra, and Superboy? Who is the mysterious criminal who poisoned them and what force has stopped time for the dying Legionnaires and their executioner and why? We’ll have the answers to those questions in two weeks when we review the ominously titled, “Burial in Space,” in Adventure Comics #379.

Commentary

It’s strange that writer, Jim Shooter, chose to use the very same small contingent of Legionnaires that were featured in the preceding issue, Adventure Comics #377. It’s also interesting how Shooter portrays the different ways the fivesome individually attempt to cope with their impending deaths, especially Princess Projectra and the godless advice she received from the “park bench philosopher.” I’ll have more to say about that topic in next issue’s commentary. For the purposes of this review, I only devoted a few words to Karate Kid’s reckless suicide mission, single handedly battling the Fatal Five, but the minor plot line actually consumed eight full-pages of this issue. Superboy using his last ounce of strength to engrave the Legionnaires’ last will and testament on a mammoth steel tablet is a glaring example of over-the-top Silver Age melodramatics.

Dumb question: Am I missing something? Since Superboy and the other Legionnaires are able to time travel, why didn’t Superboy just go back a few minutes in time immediately after the poisoning and destroy the lethal beverage?

Count it down, my friends! Only two more Silver Age Legion tales left to review! and only 33 more days until DC reintroduces the Legion after a six-year hiatus with “Legion of Super-Heroes: Millennium #1,” due in comic shops Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Infiltration: Yikes! A Freemason under every bed and inside every closet!

Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within
By Taylor R. Marshall
Crisis Publications, 2019, 307 pp.

1 Star

Fifty-four-years after its concluding session, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) continues to divide the ranks of Roman Catholics. The council attempted to “modernize” the church in several respects, most significantly, by switching the mass liturgy from Latin to the vernacular language of each country/region and by propagating a conciliatory approach to Protestants, Jews and members of all other religions. Traditionalist and many conservative Catholics were dismayed and anguished as the changes of Vatican II were implemented in Catholic parishes across the United States and the rest of the world in the late-1960s. The resentment simmered for decades, mainly beneath the surface, except for the flagrant exception of arch-conservative, French archbishop, Marcel Lefebvre, and his breakaway Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), but pope Francis and his progressive reforms have increasingly galvanized the traditionalist-conservative camp to once again consider radical options.

Over the past year, Catholic traditionalists and conservatives have become emboldened with their published criticisms of Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio and their books are evidently finding a receptive audience. With “Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within,” Catholic traditionalist, Taylor Marshall takes the attack against Vatican II, liberal Catholicism, and pope Francis to a whole ‘nother level.

Marshall posits that 19th-century Freemason conspirators plotted to secretly subvert Roman Catholicism through infiltration over a long period of time. The author contends that by the end of the papacy of Pius XII in 1958, the Judas saboteurs and their fellow travelers had secured some of the highest offices of the church and were able convoke the Second Vatican Council and push forward their disastrous declarations. Marshall describes pope John XXIII and Paul VI as entirely sympathetic to the aims of the Freemason conspirators, and young theologian, Joseph Ratzinger, the future pope Benedict XVI, as one of the council’s progressive firebrands. Pope John Paul II, though somewhat sympathetic to Vatican II and especially to its ecumenical-interfaith approach, calmed conservatives with his return to old school piety. Likewise, Ratzinger/Benedict XVI, who had gradually shifted to a more conservative viewpoint over the decades, mollified the reactionaries with his aim to “reform the reform.” However, with the election of Bergoglio to the papacy in 2013, the alleged Masonic saboteurs and double-agents were once again able to push their agenda. The only solution, Marshall advises his conservative-traditionalist readership, is to adopt the “recognize and resist” approach of his hero, archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, which is to recognize Francis as a legitimate pope, but resist all of his progressive novelties.

Taylor’s conspiracy theories regarding Vatican II and its despised Novus Ordo (“new order”) vernacular mass liturgy are breathtaking in their audacity. Taylor writes like the Catholic version of infamous worldwide Jesuit conspiracy theorists, Alberto Rivera and Jack Chick. But make no mistake, there is a growing audience within Catholicism for this kind of sensationalistic paranoia. This book bears a “Crisis Publications” imprint, but it’s VERY interesting to note that Crisis is a subsidiary of Sophia Press, which is a part of the EWTN conservative Catholic media empire. Yes, EWTN is providing a soapbox for anti-Francis, conspiracy theorists.

It’s utterly fascinating to observe this internecine jousting between the increasingly polarized factions within Catholicism, however, whether one searches within the camp of pope Francis and his progressive allies on the one extreme or within the camp of the conspiracy-obsessed Catholic conservatives and traditionalists on the other extreme, one cannot find the genuine Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Damage Control

Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis
By Robert Barron
Word on Fire Catholic Ministries, July 22, 2019, Kindle edition

1 Star

The American Catholic church had already experienced substantial setbacks prior to 2018. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) had introduced liberalizing initiatives that either thrilled or demoralized the membership, depending upon which end of the ecclesiastical spectrum they identified with. Advancing secularism and the relentless news reports of clerical sex abuse and cover-up then chipped away at the “faith” of millions of Catholics who remained. But in 2018, the flood of reports of clerical sexual abuse and cover-up turned into a tsunami, with accusations aimed at some of the church’s most powerful prelates. The irony was not lost on the average Catholic in the pew who ruminated, “Sunday after Sunday, the priests admonish me to attain personal holiness so that I ‘might’ merit salvation, yet they themselves commit abominable sins, and the bishops and cardinals have either enabled them or acted as predators themselves.”

The Roman Catholic church is a slow moving freight train, but some steps are being taken in an attempt to counter the damage from the 2018 scandal tsunami, including the widespread distribution of this new, inexpensive booklet from Catholic media darling, bishop Robert Barron.

Let’s take a look:

Chapter One – The Devil’s Masterpiece

In this introductory chapter, Baron outlines some of the details of the 2018 scandal tsunami and posits that the entire clerical sexual abuse and cover-up situation was a plot orchestrated by Satan himself to undermine the Roman church. I would reply that the RCC is a faux (c)hristian institution and that this scandal is one of the unmistakable fruits of its corruption.

Chapter Two – Light from Scripture

Baron cites passages of the Bible, especially the story of Eli and his sons, Hophni and Phineas in 1 Samuel, as Scriptural antecedents for scandalous clerical abuse and hierarchical enablement among God’s people. The difference is that the RCC does not have a mandate from God as Eli did.

Chapter Three – We Have Been Here Before

Baron then cites events from church history to show that church leaders and even several popes were involved in corruption in the past. It’s quite interesting that Catholic spokespersons like Barron now readily refer to dark and embarrassing episodes in Roman church history in order to mollify the sting of the current scandal. Such honesty and objectivity was not so forthcoming in the past.

Chapter Four – Why Should We Stay?

Barron holds up the Roman church, despite “shortcomings” by individual clergymen, as still the best way to salvation via its sacramental system.

Chapter Five and Conclusion – The Way Forward

Barron calls for increased tightening of clerical oversight and more participation by laypersons. He lays the ultimate blame for priests’ and bishops’ failings on the overall culture of the Catholic church: “The bottom line is this: if we want holier priests, we all have to become holier ourselves” (location 635). He challenges disaffected Catholics to recommit themselves to their church rather than bail: “This is not the time to leave; it is the time to stay and fight” (loc. 684). Fight for what? The impossible task of meriting their salvation?

My closing comments:

As would be expected, celibate bishop Barron dismisses the Roman church’s mandatory celibacy rule as a factor in the clergy sexual abuse phenomenon (loc. 626). Some Catholics who have studied the abuse problem in detail, like sociologist, Richard Sipe, have concluded otherwise. Between apologies, Barron is not above slipping in the oft-used canard that “the percentage of abusers among priests is roughly equivalent to the national average” (loc. 610). However, some researchers like Sipe have estimated the percentage of sexual abusers among priests to be nearer to twice the national average.

How effective will “Letter to a Suffering Church” and other efforts by the American Catholic bishops be in stemming the exodus of laypersons out the doors of local parishes? The negative impact of the clergy abuse and cover-up scandal continues with every new headline and revelation. There’s simply no putting the horse back in the barn. Here’s my bottom line, bishop Barron: The scandal is a refutation of the Roman church’s salvation system of sacramental grace and merit. If the priests and prelates, with their alleged spiritual prerogatives that were divinely-bestowed upon ordination, are unable to lead holy lives worthy of meriting Heaven, as these scandals so boldly reveal, what chance have the laity? The Catholic church misleads souls by teaching works salvation. If a particular Catholic parish church never had an abusive priest problem, we could still say with absolute confidence that the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone was NEVER preached from its pulpit.