Why Do (Some) Protestants Hate the Catholic Church?

Calvin's image is enshrined in one of these giant statues of the Reformation Wall--an odd bit of inconsistency for the iconoclast

A few days ago I visited a Protestant blog that posts various apologetics entries arguing for (Reformed) Protestantism. I punched in a comment or two, and it wasn’t long before I was blasted by the owner and rudely insulted as “not being able to understand English.”

Another commenter at that site, who I have known for his anti-Catholic virulence, also began making comments toward me, the same guy who told my friend David–a recent Catholic convert from Reformed Protestantism–that Jesus would condemn David to hell at his judgment.

Where does this disdain come from?

Catholics believe that Protestants are Christians. We believe they can be saved, have the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and are brothers and sisters in Christ, albeit separated due to the divisions between us.

But many Protestants do not think likewise about Catholics. My friend Brent Stubbs made a blog post recently discussing three forms that anti-Catholicism takes. (Here I’m speaking of the genetic variant, though I’ll nuance it a bit.)

Focusing on Reformed Protestantism specifically–this is John Calvin’s brain-child–there is among Calvinists a strong disdain for the Catholic Church, and some adherents to this flavor of Protestantism believe all practicing Catholics are going to hell. There are three main causes for this belief:

  1. They believe the Church of Rome teaches gravely evil and false things
  2. Further, their beliefs entail that Romanists are predestined to damnation, and
  3. They have a visceral revulsion for the Church–her saints, her relics, her liturgy, her earthiness.

To their credit, they have this hatred for the Catholic Church (or “Romanism,” as you will hear) because they believe it is leading people away from Jesus and the Gospel. And good for them! If I believed that some church or denomination was doing that, I would oppose it too–perhaps not using their same vitriol and methods–but I would not want people to follow those beliefs.

The vitriol stems largely from the second point: Under Reformed Protestantism, God has predestined the elect to salvation and the reprobate to damnation. Being a faithful Catholic therefore means, practically by definition, that you are a reprobate. And here’s the kicker: if you are one of the reprobate, many of the passages from the Gospel on forgiving your brother and helping him do not apply (at least as they interpret them). Once you cross the Tiber, you are anathema and damned.

The third point is subjective and its degree varies with every person. Realize that Calvin’s version of Protestantism led to the desecration of Catholic churches, the smashing of beautiful statues, and the whitewashing of ancient, sacred paintings and images. Given this legacy, is it any wonder that many Calvinists today have a gut reaction against the Catholic Church, with her incense and bells and stained glass and statuary? (Recall this scene from the Matrix–“it’s the smell!”)

The Consequences of Their Beliefs

Unsurprisingly then, when a Catholic is engaging in dialogue with (this kind of) Reformed Protestant, there is no parity in the discussion. One side thinks the other is a Christian who is doing his best to follow Jesus, and the other side thinks he is talking to a wicked and damned creature.

A blindness thus arises that clouds their hearts and minds, making it incredibly difficult for them to see the Catholic Church for what she truly is, and even to objectively weigh the arguments for and against her. This is not all Protestants, but many. It becomes a case where the disdain and revulsion takes on a life of its own, and no acts of love or courage or faithfulness on the part of Catholics can overcome it. Only God can. Consider Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables where Inspector Javert cannot believe that Jean Valjean–whom he classes as one of the reprobate–could possibly have repented and become a good man:

Even when proof of heroic virtue is shown, it cannot be accepted as coming from God. It must be evil masquerading as good, because Romanism is a false religion.

The Remedy

Only God can move hearts. We must pray for our Protestant brothers and sisters, and thankfully, most do not hate the Catholic Church (or Catholics). More and more, Protestants are able to access accurate information on the Church and judge for themselves whether she is the anti-Christ that they were taught growing up. But there is still a sizable contingent of Protestants whose disgust with the Church seems implacable. They need our prayers and, if possible, our reasoned, charitable dialogue.

Let us continue to pray that Christ will unite us in the fullness of the truth!

55 thoughts on “Why Do (Some) Protestants Hate the Catholic Church?”

  1. Awesome comparison with Le Mis. Absolutely awesome. That story is one of those that haunts you long after you see it. So much truth in it. If only Protestants would do what Javert did at the end of the scene. (Kidding!) Seriously, if they give Catholicism a chance, it is game over for them… they will convert. This is our advantage as Catholic apologists.

    1. Thanks David. Yeah Les Mis is really powerful–the implacable Javert an iconic image of someone so set in their ways that they cannot forgive or change their beliefs even when faced with overwhelming evidence.

  2. Bravo on the post , and bravo to you for trying to go out in to these waters (Prot blogs). All of our journeys as Catholic converts have some common themes (we followed truth, wherever it lead). However we also have different angles as to how we got there, so what I have to say may not resonate, but let me give it a shot from my angle.

    I come from the British strain of Protestantism, so it might not parallel the continental forms. My Grandmother in fact, was a member of Orange Hall (Ulster Protestant Organization, rabidly anti-Catholic), and all my relatives were and are (except me since my conversion) Freemasons. In these locations, it is as much about tribalism/nationalism/ethnic identity markers as it is religion. Much like being Irish is for Catholics.

    And considering that this country was founded on the heels of the religious wars in Europe, those sentiments were carried here by the settlers (My Pilgrim ancestors were fleeing the Church of England, which they believed was too “Romish”). The New England Colonies were especially Anti-Catholic, and that cultural rivalry was added fuel with territorial aspirations between New England and New France to the North. We think these things are not relevant, but it is, IMHO, part of our cultural DNA.

    Add to this a problem for Catholics since the day Henry Tudor made himself Pope of England. Catholics had to choose between God and Caesar. Catholics, at least in the English speaking world were always suspect of disloyalty to the state. This too carried over to the US; be it Thomas Nast’s “American River Ganges” propaganda, or up to our own time and JFK’s 1960 speech before Baptist Ministers, assuring them he was not a traitor).

    You have to hand it to Protestant propagandists. From 16th Century pamphleteers, all the way to Jack Chick in the 20th Century, they have been able to market their “product” by portraying their “competition” in easily digestible, two dimensional caricatures. So much so that their history is THE History, and is assumed as axiomatic.

    That’s why EWTN’s “Journey Home” (when are you going to be on that show, Devin?) uses frequently the line penned by John Henry Newman…”those who go deep into history cease to be Protestant.”

    But for Protestants, do we REALLY think about the differences between Methodism, Congregationalism, Presbyterianism, et. al.? Not likely (I remember looking on to the ministry, and the “seminary” literature indicated that you didn’t have to declare your denomination until late into the program). But one thing we DO know; we SURE AINT CATHOLIC!

    The name itself dictates it. We are Protestants. Protestants are Protest-ing. Protest-ing against what? CATHOLICISM

    I’ll close with the telling of one of two supernatural experiences I had with regard to coming in to the Church. One was a direct experience with Our Lady (which is a significant stumbling block for Protestants), and one with Our Lord in his Eucharistic presence.

    Like Newman, I read my up to the threshold of the Church, but could not enter. I had too much of my identity (socially, ethnically, and family) to make the jump to this unknown and alien world. I had a big problem with the Real Presence. So one day I went to a First Friday Adoration, and benediction. When the Priest held up the monstrance, and blessed the people, I said to God, ..come on, is that “really” you; I mean “really”? When the Priest passed the Monstrance at me, I felt this radiation coming over me, almost like after a long day at the beach, and you got too much sun, and you can feel the after effects. That’s the only way I can describe it.

    And I remember saying to myself, It IS true! And a sense of elation. And then, I felt a wave of apprehension. I remember saying out loud…oh crap, it IS true. This meant that now I could not, not know, and I cannot not be Catholic; whether I liked it or not. And if THIS is true, then everything else she teaches is true, whether I liked it or not.

    Deo Gratias

    1. Hey Devin,

      Don’t know if you pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but today’s Office of Readings was like they knew you’d be posting this thread:
      From a discourse on the psalms by Saint Augustine, bishop
      Whether they like it or not, those who are outside the church are our brothers…

      1. PMG, thank you for sharing your story–I didn’t know that about your heritage in particular and it was illuminating! I’ve prayed the liturgy of the hours some, but haven’t done so in quite a while, so thanks for tipping me off to it today. God bless!

  3. “To their credit, they have this hatred for the Catholic Church (or “Romanism,” as you will hear) because they believe it is leading people away from Jesus and the Gospel. And good for them! If I believed that some church or denomination was doing that, I would oppose it too–perhaps not using their same vitriol and methods–but I would not want people to follow those beliefs.”

    YES! I am with you 100%!

    I have very dear friends who are reformed protestants and I find they weren’t so much anti-Catholics as they were stunned to meet a Catholic who truly believed what the Church teaches AND loved Jesus! Once the stereotype is broken, it leaves question marks. If only more Catholics would break the mold…

    1. Lauren, I met two life-long Protestants this weekend who are about to become Catholic. And they faced the same thing: the husband actually doesn’t recall knowing even one practicing Catholic during his upbringing! So how are they supposed to consider the Catholic Church with no examples of faithful Catholics living it? The solution as you say is to live our faith and help fellow Catholics do likewise.

  4. Author’s quote: “Catholics believe that Protestants are Christians. We believe they can be saved, have the Holy Spirit and His gifts, and are brothers and sisters in Christ, albeit separated due to the divisions between us.”

    RESPONSE: Let’s cut to the chase. The Council of Trent explicitly anathematizes any who holds to justification by faith alone. That is a fact; and the Council decrees are alive and well today [though kept under wraps]. I do not have before me the names of numerous Catholic apologists and bloggers of serious reputation who have unequivocally stated that their is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church!!

    Now, as to the paralysis of some non-Catholic thinkers who purport that only the elect will be saved and they vocally export the view of double predestination, I ask all readers to pause and consider Aquinas’ pattern of thinking–reason. First, those who are elect do not know ahead of time as well as the “reprobates,” and for anyone of Calvinist or Arminian persuasion to propagate such is action outside the precepts of the Sacred Scripture is a fool. The Gospel is and must be openly preach to all because NO ONE KNOWS another human’s eternal destiny. Peter reminds all to “…be more diligent to make your calling and election sure….” (2 Peter 1:10) (ESV). In other words, if you claim to have repented and believed the Gospel, then your life will truly change and the previous virtues mentioned in the text will be self-evident. If one claims to believe and fails the test (also see Paul’s admonition in 2 Cpor 13:5), that faith is spurious.

    Second, those who give the “anti-Catholic” slant to whatever are guilty of using research data that is early 20th century of older. Modern writers rarely mention terms like “Papist,” or “Popish” or “Anti-Christ” and such because to do that only gives Catholicism a reason to be martyrs!! Poor, poor pitiful me (RCC gets bullied) is the mentality and that, my friend, is just another citation to victimization so prevalent in our screwed up morally lacking society.

    Third, when approached by these Protestant vermin, ignore them. It’s like a pendulum–when people convert (either direction in any area whether Protestant to Catholic, Atheist to Something, Straight to Gay, Democrat to Republican) we all tend to swing to the extreme. [Maybe Trent was the pendulum for Luther and Calvin?] So, consider the internal factors that may cause the oscillation. If a civil and reasoned discussion can be pursued, go for it. If not, just leave.

    Last, words have meanings. I had an interesting exchange with a Catholic blogger recently about the epistle to the Hebrews. We did not read the same thing as I did, for sure. In my opinion, he followed the Magisterium edict and found the Eucharist from start to finish whereas I only found a Great High Priest who made a once for all sacrifice and sat down at the right hand of God to make intercession for the saints. Now, he became obsessed (my term) that “Jesus is just sitting around in heaven, blah, blah, blah….” He was not working with reason, context, logic–only a presupposed dictate covered his rationality to such a place that it was almost make believe. [And just between me and you, that is why so many everyday cradle Catholics are either non-practicing their dear faith or it’s a reaction to not believing all of the pomp and machinations of a few chosen prelates]. Oh, and I was a Catholic but I am a serious person who does not dismiss another tradition simply on the general theological grounds for I am surely aware that I know many truly born-again Catholics–and baptism had nothing to do with it.

    PS. Calvin did not originate Calvinism–do some research. The five “solas” are from Paul. Peace

    1. Lagniappe,

      Welcome to my blog! And thanks for your comment. A few thoughts:

      1. Please read this article on what anathema really means: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2000/0004chap.asp

      2. Protestants I interact with still regularly use “Romanist” and other derogatory terms for Catholics. So it is not something we left behind last century, at least in many popular Protestant quarters.

      3. These Protestants who reviled me are intelligent and faithful men. That’s what hurts about it. They have blinders on and cannot evaluate the Catholic position without a severe prejudice.

      4. You wrote “Calvin did not originate Calvinism–do some research. The five “solas” are from Paul.”

      I have to say, this one made me smile. By this logic, Luther didn’t originate Lutheranism, Paul did. And the Anabaptists didn’t originate Anabaptism, Paul did. And the Anglicans didn’t originate Anglicanism, Paul did.

      Well, I like to say my faith originated with Jesus, who precedes Paul. 🙂

      The five solas? Catholics can agree with most of them, depending on the meaning behind them. For instance, we are justified by grace through faith, and so long as “faith alone” does not mean faith-without-agape, we can agree. Faith-informed-by-agape is justifying faith. Faith without love is not. It is dead.

      For a Catholic take on Soli Deo Gloria, see here: http://www.calledtocommunion.com/2009/03/draft-soli-deo-gloria-a-catholic-perspective/

      God bless,

  5. Lauren,

    Beautiful. If the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus founded, then being Catholic is a love affair with Jesus. Let’s “break the stereotype”.


    Great post!

  6. Lagniappe,

    The Catholic Church has always taught that heretics can be validly baptized (St. Augustine–Against the Donatists). Therefore, you (I’m assuming) are a Christian too according to the Catholic Church. Your second point, I guess, about anti-Catholicism is off the mark. I suggest you do some googling, read some John MacArthur or something. Or, is he also a protestant “vermin”? OR, maybe we can agree that anyone who uses those terms is vermin? That works.

    Regarding *your* understanding of Hebrews, I would recommend this article which will hopefully parse the nuance for you regarding the interpretive process. Of course I cannot speak for your interlocutor.

    Patristic Example: St. Cyril of Jerusalem, understanding Scripture within the Apostolic Tradition, interprets partaking of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) as partaking of the Eucharist. He also interprets “from glory to glory” as from Eucharistic celebration to Eucharistic celebration.

    Lastly, regarding the solas: James 2:24 says, “You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

    Peace in Christ,


  7. Some clarification: “vermin” was my phrase to depict bigots and false defenders at the expense of the Truth, i.e., Jack Chick, etc. John MacArthur does not qualify as an enemy for he is an expositor and clearly defends truth (read his books on that subject). Just because he may not make you happy with his exegesis in Revelation especially, it is in no way a slam against him. That goes to my very point about “anti-Catholic” victimization is determined when one speaks/writes/blogs with reason, Scripture, and common sense. He, nor most modern expositors, lay claim to an hateful attitude against the people but openly challenges the dogma/doctrine/Tradition/tradition/Magisterium/and whoever else I may have left out.

    Moreover, the Ancient Fathers are not infallible. Calvin, Gill, Luther, and countless other Divines of days gone by also quoted Augustine and others. Catholicism does not have a copy write on them and, therefore, have the lone understanding.

    “Eucharist” is a VERB in the Bible = to give thanks. Now, where did the NOUN form come from? You betcha!!! Good old Tradition. Also, I did appreciate the two articles you highlighted and I read them. Do Catholics ever see how convoluted they make such interpretation and allegory or comparative understanding? Eve and Mary are are both Mothers who are affiliated with sin (the former) and good (Mary). True in a sense, but it is not a Biblical truth. Romans 5:12f talk of 2 Adams, not 2 women.

    And James 2:24 even stumped old Martin for awhile. Read it. Eph 2:8-10 explain salvation through faith and THEN THE WORKS. It is replicated by Pope Peter in the epistle I quoted that no works=no faith.

    But before I leave, I stand amazed at Catholic attempts to promote themselves as THE TRUE AND ONLY CHURCH–eccesiology is the interpreter one of your articles points out. But, baptism by desire–ah, reason and logic? What about someone like me, Baptized as a babe but truly an apostate now. Or how do you handle the celebs when they “sin”? Can you say Kennedy or open promoters of abortion like Pelosi. Does the Magesterium’s edict come to pass and ever excommunicate someone other than an estranged nun or a bishop who wants Latin instead of the Vatican II progressiveness? My friend, I speak in love and concern for the New Evangelism which is already on board in cyberspace and claims to be civil (recent blogger responded to me by referring to Luther and his ILK). Is social justice the hallmark of the influential monolith of Rome that wants everyone to give and help but why do they not open the gates of Vatican City and let all the immigrants in? Oh, not large enough–so, let’s blame those Protestant meanies.

    I have diverged and spewed more than necessary. But humility is a tough pill to swallow and false humility is an abomination. I think one theologian called it “pious fraud” and justified it to get the results. Don’t ever let the truth get in the way of the superlative and holy goals that Joe Catholic could care less about. Your battle is not with me but the dividers and outspoken critics with your Holy Catholic Church. Oh, and you can have Newt, Scott, Mr. Shea, and countless others who found consolation in the words of mystics, Tradition, or as Cardinal Newman remarks something to the effect that all one has to do is read the Fathers and they will become Catholic. Keep believing that. A piece of transformed bread is not a means of grace but ultimately will be judged by Christ Himself as a disgrace–Hebrews 10:29-31. Parse it, exam the syntax, get your lexicon, pray to some patron saint, see if Cyril, Augustine, Gregory, Leo, whoever can make it mean something else. Worship it in the monstrance, genuflect on both knees, keep the flock buried in “mysteries”, and get rid of the word “remembrance” in Luke and Corinthians.

    I wrote openly and with no ill will. I tend to think there is logic and reason being expressed. I wish only goodness to all of you seek the Light in my own sinful life.


  8. Bob,

    I appreciate your comment about no ill will, and further about your honest look at things. You have decided that you + the bible + prayer = Christianity. That is a decision you will have to live with and I will have to live with the fact that my wife, children and I genuflect at our Lord in the Tabernacle. Mundane and so ordinary, like a small baby born in a stable. What a scandal! I will tell you that untold grace has been poured into my marriage and my family since becoming Catholic and partaking of the Sacraments.

    both Mothers who are affiliated with sin (the former) and good (Mary). True in a sense, but it is not a Biblical truth. Romans 5:12f talk of 2 Adams, not 2 women.

    True in a Biblical sense. Then you go to Romans 5:12 as if Paul is trying to exhaust the entire mystery of God, the creator of the universe becoming man, in one analogy. St. Paul never made that claim. You did.

    If Christ established a Church (which according to the Bible is the ground and pillar of truth), gave St. Peter the keys, His apostles taught to hold to those things both passed off orally (Tradition) and written, etc. and so on, then there may be a reckoning though it might look a little different…

    You are right that Catholicism cannot be captured in a quip. I don’t think Newman meant that. However, I encourage you to buy Devin’s book and take a logical, principled look at the claims of the Catholic Church–and suspend for a moment–the evangelical/protestant zeal you have been imbibed with, no doubt now, for decades.

    By the way, Eucharist=thanksgiving=give thanks. We celebrate Thanksgiving in the US. We say things like, “What are you eating on/for Thanksgiving?” Verbs become nouns through the natural passage of time. No sinister plot or conspiracy theory. The Church did Eucharist and now celebrates the Eucharist.

    “Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us. They have no regard for charity, none for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, none for the man in prison, the hungry or the thirsty. They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.”

    St. Ignatius (learned Christianity from St. John who learned it from Jesus) “Letter to the Smyrnaeans”, paragraph 6. circa 80-110 A.D.

    Peace to you on your journey,


    1. “They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.”
      I think you have this wrong here…..if you read this letter in its entirety, you will find that he is speaking about the gnostics. This sect did not believe that Jesus the son of God was a human….that he did not come in the flesh to be crucified and resurrected. They refrained completely from the lords table and did not pray….surely he was not talking about the protestants but the gnostics. We believe that Jesus came in the flesh and that he is the true bread of life that whosoever believes upon him shall be saved, that he was truly human flesh shall that came down from heaven to return to heaven again until the last day….and that once he left this earth the holy spirit will desend ….not the eucharist transformed in the body and blood of Jesus. It appears the Catholics got this mixed up at some point….Jesus is the word, the bread is the word of God.

      1. “if you read this letter in its entirety, you will find that he is speaking about the gnostics. This sect did not believe that Jesus the son of God was a human….”

        I have read Ignatius’ 7 letters in their entirety, and you are right he is probably mainly speaking about gnostics in that passage. But nevertheless, he describes the Eucharist as being the flesh of Christ. The gnostics may have denied this for different reasons than most Protestants do, but the same denial is there in both cases, right?
        For instance, Marlee, DO YOU afirm that “the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.”?
        You may deny it for different reasons than the gnostics did, but you still (I am guessing) deny it. “It appears the Catholics got this mixed up at some point….Jesus is the word, the bread is the word of God.”

        Actually, Jesus says the bread is his flesh also, and withing the same book (John).

        John 6:51
        I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.

  9. Enjoyed your article. I’m just an ordinary Catholic person, but I have seen some misconceptions about Catholics from evangelicals I work with. I have had some interesting and peaceful discussions with them. One said that the Catholic Church did not believe in Jesus as Our Lord and Redeemer. She thought that we only prayed to the Father. She was very surprised at how central Jesus is to us. These small discussions we are having are actually bringing us closer together. They question my beliefs, and I try to explain them with love and enthusiasm. Although we may not agree on everything, the one thing I see is our common love for Christ.

  10. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a particular challenge to interpret, but the High Priesthood of Christ does not necessarily preclude the Catholic priesthood, assuming the “proper interpretation” of the relationship of the Catholic priesthood to the High Priesthood of Christ.

    And the “once-for-all sacrifice” does not preclude a re-presentation in the Eucharist as sacrifice . . . “This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk 22:19 RSV).

    In fact, to me, the more I read and pray with Hebrews, the more faithfully significant it’s Word becomes. Its relating of the High Priesthood of Christ to the Old Testament witnesses and prophets, and then to faith, is most enlightening. All Catholics, and Protestant Christians, should faithfully read and pray with Hebrews.

  11. I think there is something else that motivates some spiritually perceptive Protestants to be especially hostile to the Catholic Church. They can see that it is spiritually supported. The other churches that compete with their church are obviously groups of people who have gotten together to do their best to live out their religious beliefs. They can see that the Catholic Church is more than that. From the point of view of a spiritually perceptive Protestant, the Church’s support comes from Principalities and Powers, or it comes from Heaven. And, of course, it is the latter possibility that is the more upsetting one, since it demands, at the least, investigation. By spiritually perceptive Protestant I mean someone who, for example, says he is always uncomfortable in a Catholic church.

  12. As a former Protestant turned Catholic, I can attest to some of the views that Protestants have of Catholics. For a long time, I judged Catholics without truly understanding the Catholic faith. When I began studying more about the Catholic faith, I started to realize that much of what I believed about the Catholic Church came from modern society’s view of the Church, and not the Church itself. The largest difference comes because of the Sacred Tradition. Many of the points that I once struggled with are explained in the Tradition, but as a sola scriptura Protestant, I could not understand the Catholic viewpoint. For years, I floated between a number of Protestant churches, and I never really found one to all home. Becoming Catholic was not even an option. Then, one day, I decided to take a deeper look, and I was surprised at what I found. I went through RCIA, and I refused to let myself make the final decision until just before the Easter Vigil. If I was choosing a completely new path for my faith, I wanted to be sure that I was wholeheartedly devoted to this decision. On Good Friday 2010, I decided to go through the RCIA ceremony at the Easter Vigil. Becoming Catholic has deepened my spiritual life, and it has been a blessing ever since.

    1. Chad,

      Wonderful testimony.

      “Becoming Catholic has deepened my spiritual life, and it has been a blessing ever since”

      That was the money line for me.

      Welcome home

      PMG (RCIA 2007)

  13. Great discussion folks! I too must chime in that becoming Catholic has drawn me closer to Christ than I ever have been before and areas of sin I struggled with for most of my life have been overcome BY HIS GRACE ONLY!
    The Eucharist and the Sacrament of confession have been the greatest blessings to me.

    I am currently attempting to dialog with a reformed Christian who insists that following Catholicism devoutly is a cause of guilt.

    I have never been more free!
    Keep up the good works 😉

  14. THe only reason that Protestants of the modern day are fighting with catholics is POWER. This is absoloutely a political movement for replacing the Holly American empire in the place of Holly Roman empire.
    One filthier than the other and both far a way of teachings of christ.

    1. Russ,

      We must love one another. And I love you as my sister in christ no matter what denomination you belong to.
      The entire teachings of christ are around love and even higher Agape. Have you seen any trace of love in the world of politics?
      Unfortunately the inclination of the churches is mostely towards politics rather than christ.


  15. What a very good article, thank you for that. Praying for you and ALL Christians- not matter what denominations.

    Your sister in Christ- Karla

  16. Hello Devin,

    I came across your blog via Rachel Held Evans. My compliments. It’s excellent and thoughtful. This is the first time we’ve been in touch so let me begin by saying I’m a divorced and remarried London based Mennonite. My wife is Roman Catholic. Over the past few months I have been involved in a series of conversations with traditional and progressive Catholics, following the recent Vatican blogmeet. Some of the contact with traditional Catholics has been extremely difficult. Without going into too much detail I can assure you that these Catholics hate Protestants every bit as much as the Reformed Christians you describe in your post. I have done my best to keep up the links, even retaining one of the blogs in question on my blogroll. Positively, some of the dialogue with liberal Catholics has been a delight. My ‘radref’ followers are now quite an ecumenical constituency.

    My attitude remains one of positive engagement. Ironically there is a considerable section of the Anabaptist constituency who accept with Walter Klassen, that Anabaptism is ‘Neither Catholic nor Protestant’. Given the profound influence of the monastic tradition and mysticism especially on South German Anabaptism, I am sympathetic to Klassen’s view.

    The practical difficulties around Communion that Anna and I face are considerable. I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to feeling hurt and excluded by what I perceive as a refusal on hospitality on the part of the Catholic Church. Ecumenical relations have suffered badly ever since Dominus Iesus .

    I remain optimistic though, in the light of this Peaceable Kingdom we share. The existence of organizations like Bridgefolk (http://www.bridgefolk.net/) is similarly encouraging. Shalom, phil

    1. Hi Phil,

      Welcome to my blog! Well, I don’t know who those traditional Catholics are, but if they hate you, they are wrong to do so, and I am sorry for that.

      Personally, I love the Mennonites (and the Amish). We even subscribe to a Mennonite farming magazine. They have preserved the agrarian culture that the rest of the West has lost, and I hope there is a renaissance within Catholicism that rediscovers the beauty of community and agrarian life.

      Regarding Anabaptists, I can understand why they might not think of themselves as Protestant, but historically there is no way around it. Same with the Anglicans. They consider themselves a “via media” and many get angry when called Protestants, but again, historically the Anglican movement is situated firmly within Protestantism as a schism from the Catholic Church.

      I’m also sorry you cannot receive communion, but you have to realize that the Catholic Church takes what she believes to be true so seriously that certain compromises would be wrong. Receiving communion is an act that says “we are in full communion with one another, and I believe that the Eucharist is the real body and blood of Christ, not just a symbol.” The same goes with the question of divorce and remarriage–again a very difficult circumstance that is prevalent–the Church would have to investigate your first marriage and discern whether it was a true marriage (and thus indissolvable) or whether it was not a true marriage and thus could be declared so (annulled). If you haven’t looked into the process of annulment, you could do so and that could help resolve these issues.

      So there’s ecumenism and then there’s ecumenism. True ecumenism must certainly be respectful and charitable toward others but it cannot compromise unity in the truth for the sake of affirming each other’s mutual “okayness.”

      God bless!

  17. Devin, Great response

    I am so VERY glad that Christ called you to a member of, and an apologist, for His Church. Your style and approach is respectful, knowledgeable and truly Christ like.

    It reminds me of the Charism of St. Francis de Sales, who also brought many Protestants back home.


  18. Thanks Devin, on the matter of the relation of Anabaptism to Catholicism/Protestantism Werner Packull has the most interesting recent work. His studies of South German Anabaptism trace the roots of the Anabaptist movement to late medievalism rather than early Protestantism. I’m sanguine about this. After all my blog is ‘radref’ (i.e. Radical Reformation). In general though, I think we should be allowed to state our own identity, rather than having it imposed on us.

    The matter of Communion is painful and difficult. Anna and I are Christians. We wish to worship together. It doesn’t seem to be too much to ask that we should be able to do this as a family. I am intimately aware of the official Catholic line on intercommunion. The best short statement of the Mennonite position on the Eucharist is contained in J.H.Yoder’s ‘Body Politics’. I have posted a little around this: http://radref.blogspot.com/2010/03/breaking-bread-together.html

    We did look at annulment. I think it is fair to say that in the eyes of the Catholic Church, there would certainly have been ‘grounds’. In the end I don’t believe for a minute that my first marriage wasn’t a ‘true’ marriage. Further, my ex-wife and I have worked very hard at keeping a good relationship. I suspect the annulment process would do a great deal of damage.

    As regards PMG’s comments I can only say with respect, that conversation is best carried out in a spirit of mutual respect. I am very much at home.

    1. Phil,

      Alister McGrath’s research has shown that, yes, the reformation movements within the Catholic Church started as just that–internal reformation efforts–which found fertile ground within the Church in the time period leading up to the Reformation. In other words, these movements started within the Church, which knew it was in need of internal reform, but ultimately the leaders chose to break in schism. I don’t see a way around the fact that groups like the Anabaptists decided to break from the Catholic Church, and this break occurred during the time of the Reformation.

      You can choose your own identity to a degree, but it must be accurate. The Restoratianist movement of Protestantism identifies itself as coming from an unbroken line, a remnant that existed throughout the Church, hidden away here and there, citing the Waldensians and other such groups as proto-Protestants. Yet the evidence is against this theory, so while they claim that as their identity, really they are a fairly recent innovation within Protestantism that holds to more or less the same Protestant beliefs as do other Protestant groups.

      Regarding the pain of not being able to receive communion in the Catholic Church, you can always go to (just about) any other Protestant church and receive their communion. Or you could become Catholic and receive with your wife.

      Regarding your first marriage, I can guess why you would say you think it is a “true” marriage–you loved each other, for years, much good was there, etc.–but that doesn’t mean it was a marriage in the eyes of God. My parents marriage (which lasted for decades) was recently annulled. It doesn’t make me illegitimate in any way, nor does it negate the good things in their relationship.

      But let’s say you’re right and it was a “true” marriage. Then as Jesus says, what God has joined together, man cannot separate. So it’s indissoluble and you are not free to marry another. Only if you interpret Jesus words as allowing you to divorce (even after a “true” marriage) and marry another could you then square this.

      The annulment process may be painful, revisiting old memories that you would rather just leave dormant. But marriage as you know is serious stuff, ordained by God, and we have to follow God’s way on it. If Christ says marriage is indissoluble, then it is, and so knowing what constitutes a marriage is vitally important. Sometimes you have to re-break a bone so that it can set right and be truly healed.

      In any event, I’m not a counselor nor am I in your shoes, so I do not intend to offend you or make myself the judge of your situation. It’s very hard.

      It seems like either 1) you just go to a Protestant church, few of which care anything about divorce and remarriage and most of which have open communion, or 2) you go through the annulment process, which could then free you to have your marriage convalidated in the Catholic Church, allowing your wife and you to receive communion.

      God bless!

  19. Devin, I want to thank you for engaging seriously and helpfully with my previous post. I have a particular interest in Restitutionism which is a significant theme in Anabaptist theology. These days it’s common amongst the Bruderhof (now renamed Church Communities International). There’s a much more nuanced position in J.H.Yoder, especially the ‘Priestly Kingdom’ (see ‘Anabaptism and History’, pp. 123-134). Yoder’s perspective doesn’t depend on some kind of alternative succession. I agree that such a position is suspect. I don’t know if you are familiar with Yoder’s work but I suspect you would find this fruitful. As I’m writing I have Thomas Merton’s fine description of tradition as a “living current of uninterrupted vitality” in mind. I think the chief question that arises for me, sparking off Yoder and Merton, is ‘can there be interruption?’

    As I said previously I’m sanguine about Anabaptist identity. My old professor once said I was making a ‘fetish of identity’, so it’s good to prove him wrong. Where I find that your perspective is challenging relates to ‘unity’. In the history of the church perhaps the period from the Reformation to the present day doesn’t seem a long time. It is however, more than enough time for generations of Protestants to feel that the current state of affairs is normal. Perhaps that is a way of saying that we have lost our horror of schism. As you rightly say what became the Reformation began within the Catholic Church. That might seem a truism but I do think it’s important to recall the essential tragedy of what happened. I am always hopeful but speaking frankly I cannot see much momentum for reunification on either side of the divide. I share Leonardo Boff’s broad attitude to the current Pontificate (‘Fundamentalism, Terrorism and the Future of Humanity’).

    As regards the situation vis a vis Anna and I you have given me valuable food for thought. Thanks for spending the time replying so helpfully.

    Pax Vobiscum,


  20. I feel like there is a lot of pre- vadican understanding of the catholic belief the Protestants are saved. I think that is something is not understood by protestants in general. I being a protestant enjoyed your blog very much.

  21. Hello Phil,

    I feel compelled to write on your blog after reading that “catholics believe that protestants will be saved”. What you stated as obvious is a false generalization. Not “all” catholics believe that protestants will be saved. In fact, many believe, as I do, that the Church always though that “outside the church there is no salvation”.

    Take care

    1. I would also like to add that what protestants thinks of the Church does not concern us! Let’s invest our spirit toward deepening our understanding of the Church doctrines instead and ask God to help us lead charitable existences.

    2. Alexandre,

      The Catholic Church teaches that Protestants can be saved, that they have valid baptisms and thus also the Holy Spirit. Now, that doesn’t mean all of them will be saved, but the Church doesn’t teach that all Catholics will be saved, either.

      Do you believe Benedict XVI is the pope?

      1. If not all catholics are saved, whats the use? The catholic church claims you have to be catholic to be saved. The protestants make no such claim, because salvation is between you and Christ. No men in priest costumes can give you salvation.

        1. The use is that in the Catholic Church is found the fullness of the means of salvation, which, while personal, also take place within Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, and not as a private affair.

          So “men in priests costumes” don’t “give you salvation,” but Christ works through them as ministers of the sacraments that He instituted.

        2. “The catholic church claims you have to be catholic to be saved. The protestants make no such claim…”

          Not true. I was a conservative Protestant for 20 years, and I absolutely would have said that to be saved one must hold to sola fide, which is a distinctively Protestant doctrine, and a doctrine a Catholic could not subscribe to. So Protestants DO make that claim.

          Also, a priest does not have to be wearing any special clothing to forgive sins in the person of Christ or say mass. He could be wearing a space suit and still give the sacraments. This has been the faith of Christians for 1500 years before the reformation, Jesus himself gave the Church the power to forgive sins (its right tyhere in your Protestant bible).

  22. Alexandre, I’m a little mystified, since I never said that “catholics believe protestants will be saved”. It is however sad, that there is still some dark corner of the world where Christians (of whatever Tradition) doubt the salvation of other believers. Although I am no fan of the current Pope I’m grateful to Russ for pointing out that he is not one of them. Unfortunately. bigotry and intolerance continue to thrive in both Catholic and Protestant settings.

  23. Hello
    I have read many posts from catholics on websites saying “Those who do not know that the Church is necessary for Salvation can be saved.” . My question, what is the extent of this? If I am completely aware of catholic Doctrine yet refuse to accept it and stay protestant, am I(according to catholic beliefs) going to hell?I am a protestant who is fully aware of Catholic beleifs yet I do not beleive them. I consider them possibly correct, afterall I am fallible and can make mistakes, but I follow a protestant view of the Bible. If I was to die today, would I go to hell?

    I have also heard Catholics say “Catholics believe that there is no salvation outside the Church, however it is believed that someone could be part of the church in someone if they try to follow God or maybe if they knew more they would be Catholic.” This backs my earlier question. I know about Catholic doctrine yet refuse to beleive it(not because I am trying to rebel against God). Am I saved?

    Thank you for your time

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Great questions. Yes you could still be saved even remaining a Protestant after studying the arguments made by the Catholic Church. Now if you believed that the Catholic Church was what it claimed to be and decided to reject it anyway (essentially a rejection of God), then you would be imperiling your immortal soul.

      Fact is, as you alluded to our intellects are darkened and it can be hard for us to discover the fullness of the truth. Things get in the way: bias, prejudice, long-accepted filters or traditions for how we read the Bible, deep-rooted presuppositions taught early on in our lives (like sola Scriptura, or the 66-book Protestant canon of Scripture, sola fide, once-saved-always-saved).

      So the question is do you *really* understand the Catholic Church’s arguments? Maybe not completely. It’s in God’s hands, and He is merciful. By the Catholic Church’s teachings you are in a real, but imperfect communion with His Church (through your faith and baptism).

      I would say, keep praying, keep studying, keep loving Christ, and trust in Him as you are doing and He will not forsake you.

      God bless,

    2. Jeff,
      What Devin said.
      Something else that might help you understand how Catholics view this issue is understanding the distinction between vincible and invincible ignorance.
      Yes, we believe there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. But at the same time we believe that catecumens, who have not yet oficially entered the Church, can be saved by the “baptism of desire”. Also we believe that unbaptised martyrs can be saved by the “baptism of blood”. These are ancient beliefs of the Church. In fact, God can do whatever he wants. Notice the word “can” though.
      Obviously if God has instituted the Church to give sacramental grace to us, then not having the Church is a at least a huge disadvantage, and at worst is deadly. But yes God can save those who are invincibly ignorant of His Church. The proverbial “tribesman in Africa” who has never even heard the name Jesus, let alone the Gospel (he is invincibly ignorant), is not doomed, so of course Protestants, who have a huge advantage over the tribesman having the scripture and knowledge of Jesus, … of course they are not necessarily doomed. They may be invincibly ignorant. As to how many are, whether 90% or 0%, or somewhere inbetween, nobody can know but God.
      But having said all that, I want to say I don’t think your mind should be at ease till you read the distinction between the types of ignorance.


      David Meyer

  24. I use to believe the Catholic Church was the woman who rides the beast in the Book of Revelation. Yet, God changed me and surely he can change other Protestants who believe such. It is true that apart from God changing the heart they won’t listen to arguments because after all, who would listen to an argument made by someone they believe is demonic?

    1. Pio, how did God change you? Did the Magesterium say “OK?” Do you use experiential exegesis to conclude any other interpretation is “demonic?” And what has your comment have to do with the “Anti-Catholic” issue? Did you hate Catholics? Were you a secret seeker of mackerel snappers (no meat on Friday)? Why don’t you, Pio, and Devin, and all the rest just hold hands with John Armstrong and get over all of this “these bad Protestants hurt my feelings and think I am wrong when all of history proves I am right.” All of this is far more complicated that an experience, a feeling, allegorical exegesis, Papal Bulls, bad people like Luther, ad nauseam.

  25. Hello,

    a little late here on this comment but I do believe you didn’t do justice to many members of our church. I am a Baptist and a attend a Catholic Highschool. In the long run, there really is no difference between us, because if you accept christ, christ will accept you. Whether your catholic, protestant, orthodox Jesus saves us all!

    Sorry to over simplify 🙂



    1. Hi Matt,

      You said,

      Matt says:
      October 2, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      a little late here on this comment but I do believe you didn’t do justice to many members of our church. I am a Baptist and a attend a Catholic Highschool. In the long run, there really is no difference between us, because if you accept christ, christ will accept you. Whether your catholic, protestant, orthodox Jesus saves us all!

      Sorry to over simplify

      That is an oversimplification that can have dire consequences to one’s soul. The fact is that you are contradicting Scripture. Have you not read:
      Matthew 7:21
      King James Version (KJV)
      21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

      In other words, not everyone who accepts Christ is acceptable to Christ:

      Matthew 16:24
      King James Version (KJV)
      24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

      Matthew 10:38
      King James Version (KJV)
      38 And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.

      Now, Baptists and all Protestants preach faith alone and abhor the idea that god works must be done in order to be justified.

      James 2:17
      King James Version (KJV)
      17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

      James 2:24
      King James Version (KJV)
      24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

      Therefore it is wrong to say that everyone who “accepts” Christ is accepatable to Christ. Christ only accepts those who OBEY Him:
      Hebrews 5:9
      King James Version (KJV)
      9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;



      Cheers to you as well,


      De Maria

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