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Written Word > Articles & Commentaries > January 2010 > The Question in the Protestant-Catholic Debate
Current rating: 4.6 (18 ratings)
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Walt Mateja, Ph.D.
By trade, I am a professional photographer. In 1970, I was contracted to photograph the ordination of approximately 30 men to the priesthood as Oblates of St. Francis DeSales.
Standing in the choir loft at the rear of Our Lady of Ransom Catholic Church in the Northeast part of Philadelphia PA, I had the uniques oppoertunity to capture the pentultimate moment of seeing literally hundreds of clergy circled around the Sanctuary while the semirians lay prostate in the form of a cross on the church floor in front of the presiding Archbishop and the altar.
At that moment in time, I realized the immense *****ulative amount of study, dissertation, prayer, discernment and knowledge present before me.
That image is ingrained in my consciousness daily as it made me realize that indeed the apostolic succession that proceeds from St. Peter to the present day reinforces the idea that the "One Holy Catholic Church" is alive and well and represented by the Roman Catholic Church. My entire body tingled knowing fully well that I was truly in the presence of God, and feeling the tremendous sacred joy of the moment.
I still feel blessed by that experience.
1/11/2010 12:08:21 PM
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Kevin Kitura
You know Father Barron what ultimately convinced me that Catholic Church was the One True, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church that Christ founded, was when I read the encyclical Casti Connubii written by Pius XI in which the Holy Father so gallantly and beautifully defended the Sanctity of Marriage and the martial act from evils of modernity. Reading this encyclical at the age 26 for the first time in the year 2000, I kept asking myself what happened? How on earth did the world get so broken? And what happened to the other Christian denominations and how did they get duped into accepting contraception. It's not like I didn't know the answer, it was just the sudden sickening realization that the protestant reformation and Christian disunity had resulted in murder of millions of children in the wombs of there mothers. How on earth do we get this ugly genie back into the bottle?
1/12/2010 11:00:05 PM
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Kathryn W.
Yes! It was exactly the question of authority that led me to the Catholic Church, after having been a very enthusiastic born-again Evangelical for six years. I had just begun participating in a well-known e*****enical Protestant Bible study. I was asked to consider becoming a discussion leader. While being "interviewed," I learned that anyone with the gift of tongues (in any form, I suppose), could not be in leadership due to conflicts that had occurred in the past. I don't know why, but I was really shaken and took it really hard. But praise God, for it really got me thinking about who has the right to say their interpretation of the Bible is correct. It seemed to me that Christianity was flawed. Related questions came to my mind...how could interpretation be left to people who have no education, or are mentally challenged? How easily anyone could be misled by a bad teacher! (There are plenty of examples of that!) Why was there so much intellectual snobbery among the Christians I knew? As I came to recognize the need for authority, soon everything else "Catholic" began to make sense. I no longer needed to compromise and accept "minor theological differences," and "trouble passages" made complete sense within the Catholic framework. I'm so happy to have come into the fullness of Truth!
2/4/2010 2:15:50 AM
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Angela
How true! My son attends a Christian as opposed to Catholic school (long story). The school is great overall but has the added bonus of working a charm to deepen my son's faith and conviction that the Catholic Church is the One True, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church that Christ founded precisely because as hard as they try to be of one mind, the teachers are constantly giving different viewpoints on the same issues. He finds the answers from the CCC solid and always backed up Biblically (something the other Christians seem to refuse to believe about Catholicism). My son is finding out first hand that his Christian peers (teenagers)are suffering from this because they don't have a solid base on which to build their faith, rather it is a continuously shifting base which leads to an attitude of anything is OK.

By the way don't believe the 3.5 rating I tried to rate it 5 stars but somehow it registerd less....
2/4/2010 6:03:46 PM
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Renee Bjornard
Would Dr. Mateja be willing to share his photograph of the seminarians laying prostate in the form of a cross in front of their Archbishop and the altar? Or, perhaps he has a website where we can purchase this photo? I would love to have it in my office ... as I'm sure many of your readers ;-)
With regards to your article, Fr. Barron, your statement “resistance to centralized authority was written into the DNA of the Protestant movement…” best articulates my Protestant family and friends. It is ironic, therefore, when we can dialog about the issue of various interpretations from them and their theologians, many of them admit that they would prefer to have an authoritative gavel on key doctrine.

I am of the generation of Catholics who remembers before and after Vatican II and the plethora of changes that emerged afterwards. I was still young, not quiet a teenager, and remember thinking Jesus left our church. When I went away to college, I began searching for Him through various Protestant churches all of whom had worship services that were, in essence, bible study sessions (with lots of music). Hunger for the Eucharist, and study of the scriptures eventually brought me back to the One True Holy Apostolic Church. They all taught a chorus of love and of the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, but then they lacked consistency on key scriptural passages such as John 6, Colossians 1:24, and Matthew 18:13-19 to name a few. Invariably, they spoke badly of Catholic doctrine without understanding what Catholics teach. How can they claim to know what the Church teaches and then get it so wrong? Issues like Marion devotion and her Immaculate Conception, Sacraments like Reconciliation and Holy Orders, priesthood celibacy, “repetitive” prayers like our Rosary. The priest-scandal is twisted out of proportion and the Infallibly of the Pope is totally misunderstood – oh, but they are quick to point out “bad popes of the Dark Ages”.

It is by God’s grace that I am fully Catholic in good standing with the Church. And, thanks to the Internet and emerging technologies, there is no excuse to be uneducated about what our church teaches (thank you Fr. Barron and Catholic Answers!) In grace, I am a light on a hill, a leaky farmhouse sprinkler squirting Living Water to my non-practicing Catholic family and Protestant friends. As St. Francis exhorts “use words if you must.”
2/27/2010 9:31:00 AM
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William T. Missavage
Fr. Bob, I picked up this book not too long ago. It reminded me of why I came home to the Catholic Church. Church history made me Catholic.
3/15/2010 5:30:32 PM
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Alex
This is a great website.I have come to this website after watching,Rev.Barron introducing it on ETWN.As a Catholic, sometimes it's hard to update oneself the views and ideas of this world and seeing it with the Catholic point of view.I must say this website is the answer for this generation.

keep up the good work and may God Bless you !
3/15/2010 8:29:07 PM
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Caroline
Father,

I was a cradle Catholic who spent 20 years wandering in the evangelical Protestant wilderness. It was this very issue of authority that brought me home 4 years ago. I think I was part of the same well known Bible study as Kathryn W ,only I remember 2 questions from my interview that were catalysts for my journey home to Holy Mother Church: are you Catholic, and have you ever been married before ? I couldn't be a discussion leader because I answered yes to the second and yes, by default to the first.
I still completed the 7 year study, but was assigned another leadership post.

Thank you for this wonderful website and your willingness to use technology to educate and spread the truth.
God Bless You
4/5/2010 10:33:37 AM
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Thorwald Johansen
What is your interpretation of Matthew 23:9? Are we not commended by God, to obey this scripture?
5/21/2010 9:41:50 PM
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Susan
There are places online where you can discuss and explore such questions. One place is the Coming Home Network International. They have forums, one of which is "Exploring Catholic Christianity [Inquiring Dialogue] > Scripture."

Also, for a Catholic perspective on the Gospel of Matthew and this verse, I would recommend watching Dr. Tim Gray's Bible study on EWTN, "The Gospel of Saint Matthew." The program finished today, but will probably air again sometime. Or, copies can be purchased from the EWTN website.
5/25/2010 7:43:00 PM
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Bonnie Waletzko
Dear Thorwald Johansen,

Maybe I can help you with Matthew 23:9—evidently you do not believe we should call anyone father here on earth, for one is your father who is in heaven. This is true [all of the Books of the Bible are Truth, this all verses are true]. In order to understand this verse we must look at it in light of the whole Bible. This verse, as the Church teaches us, is talking about God our Father; and of course, we are not to call any other being Father in the same sense as if that person were God. When a child calls her Dad ‘Father’ she is not thinking of him as God. Matthew 19:19—Jesus confirms commandment “Honor father and mother”. In Matthew 3:9—Jesus calls Abraham “father”. Jesus would not sin against His Father so how do you handle this verse? Acts7:2—St. Stephen calls Jewish leaders “fathers” as does St. Paul in Acts21:40, 22:1. In Romans 4:16-17 Abraham is called “the father of us all”. 1Cor 4:14-15—I became your father in Christ… 1Tim 1:2—my true child in our common faith…[he must be a father to call someone ‘child’.] 1 John 2:13, 14—I write to you, fathers, because you know him…

Thorwald—how do you understand these verses? We know that the Bible does not contradict itself. If we read the Bible and come to a question about a verse such as Matthew 23:9, we must look to the Church for the full Truth. Reading this one verse and neglecting to fit it together with all the other ‘father’ verses [which there are many more than the ones I mentioned] can cause falsehoods.

Remember, the devil will feed you 99 truths to get you to fall for 1 lie. Take back the power that Jesus Christ has given you through your Baptism—let the Holy Spirit guide you—He will tell you to listen to the Church when you are bumped by a question because He has been guiding the Church for 2000 years. You can trust the Church for the fullness of Truth.

If you have any further questions about individual verses, take them to a Catholic Priest or a Catholic person who knows what the Church teaches or, at least, knows where to help you find the answers to your questions.

One thing to remember, the Bible is a Catholic Book. If you wanted to buy a Ford, would you go to the Chevy dealer to find out about a Ford? If you want to find out what the Bible is saying, ask for a Catholic perspective and I know your questioning will be relieved.
Bonnie Waletzko
6/4/2010 8:29:23 PM
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Daneil I. Izebuno
Thank you Father Bob for your incisive clarity of expression. The political analogy of Alister McGrath for in order for "the Protestant sensibility is quite similar to the democratic sensibility: no absolute authority, but a gradually arrived at consensus" only reminds me of what Our Lord spoke to Pilate about the kingdom. 'My kingdom is not of this world' (Jn 18:36). Any attempt by the 30,000 or so Protestant denominations to want to follow the path of political sensibility in order to arrive at a consensus they think would be agreeable to what Christ says of his kingdom would best be an exercise in utter vicious circle.
6/8/2010 3:46:02 AM
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vacation bible school
It was very interesting to read about Alister McGrath’s book, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. The Protestant-Catholic debate has been there from ages. When Luther questioned about the scriptures, it really was bee sting to the elite interpreters. It is definitely challenging to a lot of Roman Catholic churches and various services. In my opinion, the idea of bible is for all and every individual interprets as per his or her intellectual. What the priests say is not entirely as what it is meant. So, Luther was absolutely right in his dishonor against the priests.
2/2/2011 12:56:13 AM
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Kerisa
I am a Protestant. There are many issues on which I think the Catholic Church has a good point, and unity among the brethren is one of them.

However, the worship of Mary troubles me. I know, someone's going to say "WE DON'T WORSHIP MARY! You must not have read such-and-such which explains that we don't worship Mary!" Well, in reference to the many appearances and apparitions (such as Fatima and others), it is clear that Mary is given a place that is equal to or even superior to Christ. The Bible speaks nothing of this, so the average Catholic is told to look to the Church, and Church tradition says Mary was immaculately conceived and is Co-Redemptrix with Christ (both unbiblical ideas, so one has to say that Church Tradition is as important as Scripture to justify this unbiblical stance). Mariology is a huge point that keeps me from embracing everything the Catholic Church teaches.

Nearly every time there is an apparition, it's Mary, telling people to continue to pray to her (unbiblical, no Scriptural precedent, Christ never did it), be devoted to her, etc. This is a false gospel. Someone mentioned Satan feeding you lies; this certainly fits that category. Catholics, don't look in your Bible for the answer to this question. You'll just get confused and that's what the priests are there for... to explain the Scriptures to you. Just ask your priest.

Fortunately we know what to do in such a dilemma. The early church fathers spoke about what to do if there is a question on teachings. In Acts 17, the Bereans are commended for searching the Scriptures to see if what was being taught was true. I find that the average Catholic knows nothing that is in their Bible. They just trust that the Church is feeding them the truth. My Catholic stepmother had no idea, when we were considering naming our baby Titus, that this was a book of the Bible. But she's got a statue of Mary in her garden, like every other "good Catholic" I know. It appears to me that the average Catholic loves Mary so much and finds her "more approachable" than Christ, so they pray to her (and other saints, also a clearly unbiblical idea - we have ONE intercessor - I Tim. 2:5), and offer such devotion to her that it is in all practicality "worship."

Listen, I came to this website because I do have questions about the Catholic Church and authority. Someone linked to it on their Facebook status about abortion, so I looked around because I'm curious. I'm not here to flame or troll. If it weren't for the demonic, satanic devotion to someone other than Christ - and I do believe that Satan appears as "an angel of light" (II Cor. 11:14) - disguising himself and exhorting us to worship Mary - and the clearly unbiblical exhortation not to evaluate the Scriptures on one's own, I think I could accept most of the Catholic Church's teachings.

I am interested in hearing a response - something other than "we don't worship Mary!" Because clearly, you do. In contrast to the Biblical idea of One Redeemer, she's a co-redemptrix, immaculately conceived, you pray that Rosary to her, have statues and amulets of her... clearly it's Mary worship in actual practice.
2/8/2011 11:05:06 AM
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Jordan
I am a regenerated (born-again), reformed follower of Jesus Christ, a brother to all genuine believers in the body of Christ, be they Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, etc. Something I have heard a lot of people get mixed up over is the idea that people can be REAL or GENUINE or AUTHENTIC Christians simply because they go to church or have been baptized or are Baptist or Catholic. This is heresy and by heresy I mean in blatant contradiction with Scripture. To correct this lie, we must first biblically define what makes a person a Christian. Biblically, a Christian is someone who will inherit the Kingdom of God through the saving grace of Jesus Christ. So the question becomes, "How does one inherit the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ?" Jesus gives us part of the answer in John 3 while talking to the Pharisee Nicodemus about this question.

John 3:3
Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

and in verse 5:
Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.

The "water" and "Spirit" that Jesus is referring to is a spiritual cleansing and regeneration of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit, identical to what David speaks of in Psalm 51 and what God speaks of in Ezekiel 36.

Psalm 51:2
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!

Ezekiel 36:26
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Then in Romans 1, Paul explains that the Gospel (or good news) of Jesus Christ's redemptive work is how we receive the saving grace (salvation) of Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:16a
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...

Then in Romans 3, Paul explains how this salvation is imparted to us. He says that salvation comes through faith.

Romans 3:23-26
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

So to recapitulate what I just covered: a Christian is someone who has had their heart regenerated (i.e. spiritually reborn) by the Holy Spirit through faith in the Gospel of the historical Jesus Christ, who is recorded in the Holy Bible. Thus, a Christian may be a Catholic, a Baptist, a Methodist, a Lutheran, a Nazarene, or a Presbyterian, but not all of the members of the congregations of these denominations or any other for that matter are genuine, born-again, believers and followers of Jesus Christ. So the next time you hear a biblically illiterate Catholic or a biblically illiterate Baptist or anyone who calls themself a Christian but has no real understanding of the Bible rattle off some pseudo-religious malarkey about the Ten Commandments, or catechisms, or being on fire the Lord, just take it with a grain of salt. They might be a Christian with no biblical foundation for their faith, or they might be an unbeliever who thinks they are a Christian because they wear the t-shirt.
4/30/2011 1:39:15 AM
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Vivine
@Jordan: in short.. Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus?
9/8/2012 6:03:03 AM
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Vivine
My opinion about authoritativeness on determining meaning of Scriptures is lies within the Scriptures itself.

Church is given authority to examine it, to discuss it, to explore it, but the conclusion must be constrained by the Scriptures itself (conclusion can NOT contradict the Scriptures, not even an iota of it, as clearly stated by Jesus).

Speak about tradition, Apostles themselves has not put someone in authoritative charge when challenged with interpreting matters, but seeking for open discussion among themselves (read Acts 15). Here we can see that Peter is not in charge of the meeting. Watch as James deliver his conclusive words, he refer to Peter's words not because Peter has infallible authoritative, but because Peter's opinion is consistent with Old Testament's prophet prophecy. He refer back to the Scriptures!
9/8/2012 9:26:12 AM
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Jordan
@ Vivine, Sola Scriptura; the Solas indeed!
9/9/2012 8:58:07 PM
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Sushil Melville
Iam an Evangelical Protestant,but I admire and love Catholic pietism and their devotion in many ways. However Catholics need to understand that in the sacred scripture which is God's word we have enough of pure doctrine. If God has put something in the scripture it cannot be contradicted by some so called Tradition. Yes I fully agree with some apostolic tradition. However any Tradition that contradicts scripture is false because it makes God a Liar. We have the Holy Spirit in every Christian even a Catholic Christian who is led and taught by the very third person of the Trinity who lives within us and ministers to us. Thus we are able to discern what is right and wrong.
10/20/2012 10:46:36 AM
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Daniel M.
@Sushil Melville

If it is so easy to discern what is right and wrong, why are there so many competing theologies among evangelical protestants who claim to be indwelt with the Holy Spirit?

Protestantism has its own "tradition," but it is formless and adaptable with no boundaries. When someone disagrees on a certain point of doctrine, they split and start a new "church" that claim to teach true Christianity.

On the other hand, Catholicism offers a very different paradigm. It contains a living tradition handed down from the apostles with ALL the scriptures. It also has "walls" so that heretics can be ousted and orthodoxy maintained.
10/30/2012 4:41:56 PM
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